Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Camping in Somerset

View past caravans out to sea with a cloudy sky
I met Lola II off the train in Taunton on Friday, and we spent some time in the town wandering in and out of shops, before heading off to the campsite, which was on the West Somerset coast near Watchet. We were directed to the bottom of the field where it was less windy, but the slope was too much for us, so we went higher up where there was a flat bit. We did get hit by quite a bit of wind, but we survived, and from our tent we could see and hear the sea and the gentle toots of the steam trains on the nearby West Somerset Railway.

The weather was incredibly changeable. One minute the sun was out, the next it was cloudy, then windy, then it rained a little bit, then it was sunny and rainy, then cloudy and windy, and every other combination you could think of. At various times we were wearing anything between a T shirt on its own or six layers including a raincoat.

Me next to sculpture of giant hands holding a mapSaturday took us to Minehead, which was another very nice town, on the sea, with parks and shops and stuff to do and see. As we passed a church, there was an advertisement for a concert later, featuring Glenn Miller classics, and we decided it was worth a try for that evening's entertainment. After driving all the way to Wellington and finding it essentially deserted, we came back to Minehead for the concert.

Lola II wanted to sit near the front, and I was quite looking forward to the music, but the band was a bit rubbish. After the first song (a Blues Brothers number) I turned to find Lola II's face streaming with tears as she attempted to suppress her laughter. Shortly after the fairly random introduction to 'In The Mood' she fled from the pew, and tried to compose herself outside. A concerned churchgoer followed her out to make sure she was all right, so she had to pretend she was ill. She spent the rest of the concert at the back of the hall, in disgrace as far as I was concerned.

She actually had a much better time than I did, since I was now on my own at the front. I quite enjoyed most of the songs, but what I found most incongruous was the presence in the semi-religious programme of the late 70's homosexual anthem 'YMCA', and its enthusiastic reception by the audience - the band even played it a second time as an encore. From her vantage point at the back, Lola II said I was the only one among the grey-haired pensioner audience not doing the actions.

We had supper afterwards in a lovely little restaurant in Minehead called Cream, which was depressingly empty on a Saturday night. The owners were very understanding of our indecision when it came to food and drink. These are important choices that are difficult to rush, especially when there are so many good options on the menu. We chatted with them a bit about Minehead and camping.

Band playing on the bandstandOn Sunday we really meant to go for a proper walk. We had maps and directions and everything, and there was a concert on the bandstand in the park in Taunton that didn't start until 3 p.m., so it seemed eminently possible that we could fit in a walk. But we had some urgent shopping to do, and lunch, and then we had to locate the start of the walk but it was really difficult to find a public toilet first, and eventually at about 2.30 we decided to buy a paper and sit in the park and wait for the concert to start.

This band was much better than the church ensemble, and there was lots to look at as we sat on our camping chairs - children doing the funny dancing that children do, babies being cute and charming, an old chap on a mobility scooter who'd gone to get ice cream cones for him and his mate but took too long about it so they were melting all over him by the time he made it back to where his mate was waiting.

Lola II sitting on (bronze statue of) Yankee Jack's lapWe did manage to squeeze in a walk after we got back to the campsite, and wandered around Watchet for a while. On the way back, we met one of the owners of the cafe in Minehead, walking her dog. It's the sort of coincidence that wouldn't seem realistic in a novel.

What with all this walking, it was quite late when we started to cook supper, and we ended up eating in the dark, illuminated only by Lola II's head torch (I'd forgotten to bring mine). Instant noodles with mushrooms, broccoli and prawns - yum.

On Monday we visited Cleeve Abbey, which is a very nicely presented English Heritage site, and then had lunch in Dunster, which is a very picturesque and popular tourist trap of a village because of the nearby castle (which we didn't visit). Then back to Taunton again to deliver Lola II onto the train home.

The best thing about the weekend was that we acquired two new catchphrases, delivered to us as a gift when two brothers were passing our tent on the campsite. The older one delivered a mild insult to the younger one, who took umbrage, and was not reassured to be told that it was only a joke.

"You never make jokes about anyone else," he complained. "Go on, make a joke about someone else! You see, you can't, can you? I hate you!"

"But I love you," replied his older brother. "I'd never spend any time at all with you if I didn't."

We'll have to wait and see if these become as popular in the future as our other regular catchphrases.

Sun setting over Watchet harbour
Note: Lola II took the pictures of me next to the sculpture in Minehead and of Watchet harbour.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like a great trip. YMCA - a homosexual anthem???? - I know all the actions too!!! But I am a late 70s teenager ;)

Lola said...

Definitely a homosexual anthem. I know all the actions too, but I hate 'joining in'. Unless it's ironic. Which it definitely wasn't in this case.