Thursday, 28 May 2009

One fine day in Dorset


Last January, when our youngest children were turning 11, a friend said to me: Let's go fossil hunting in Dorset on the last Bank Holiday in May.

What she didn't say: Let's go play on a pebble beach while we still have the chance . . . before the Adolescent Age (of cell phones, sullen, closed faces, and a general dislike of parents).

Sure, I said. I'm game (even if it means being damp and chilled all day, because you can never count on the weather, no, not even in May). Last time we played on a beach, the wind was a cold whip and my wellies got stuck in the sucking mud. We laugh about it still . . .

We allowed three hours for the trip, but it only took two. (Leave on a Sunday at 7 am for optimal traveling conditions.) By 9:30 we were drinking coffee and eating chocolate chip cookies (just slightly melted) on a picnic bench by the beach.

The weather was glorious: a day like only a handful of days granted each English weather year.

Chipping away the ancient rock
looking for fossilized treasure

For an hour or two, we looked for ammonites and belemnites in the gray rock of the crumbling cliffs. The best fossils are churned up in the February storms, our guide said. I'll take a sunny day in May instead, I thought. Never mind the ammonites . . .

As the day warmed, the siren call of the sea became irresistible. Fossil hunting was replaced by shell seeking.

We three: last days of childhood

As the day warmed, the mothers became laden with discarded jumpers and shoes. My daughter, always a water baby, longed for a swim suit. She is just that bit too old, and modest, for nude bathing.

Day-dreaming of mermaids

The boys grew hungry, as boys always do, but my daughter didn't want to leave the beach.
She was born in the Caribbean, and we often wonder if the sea has imprinted on her in some way.

Last stroll before lunchtime

We wound up the day with a late lunch at The Anchor Inn. Sun-happy revellers spilled out of the pub in every direction and ate on picnic tables which overlooked the sea.

As I stood in a long line at the bar, waiting to order drinks, the man in front of me joked with the barman: Last time I saw you, it was a howling gale and you were in a polo-neck! When was that, asked the barman? Last August! barked the man.

On this fine May day, the sea was a becalmed, beckoning blue.


Catalyst said...

I was born in landlocked North Dakota and I am still drawn to the sea, too. I've heard it has something to do with amniotic fluid.

Lizzy Frizzfrock said...

Sounds like a wonderful day! I'm surprised that the weather was so nice in May. I know it can sometimes be very chilly even in May. Nice photos & such cute kids!

Beth said...

When I think of myself at 11, I was such a little girl.
Enjoy your little girl/mermaid for as long as you can – and a day at the beach with mom is such a wonderful way to do that!
(Dorset is the name of the little town we frequent when at the cottage.)

cipriano said...

Wow! Have you ever read Ian McEwan's excellent novel, On Chesil Beach?
Well, the first photo on your blog really reminds me of the real Chesil Beach.

Put this into your bowser and see for yourself.
Same kind of stones on the beach and stuff...

Margaret Gosden said...

A wonderful blog for reminiscing about my own childhood beach experiences on the south east coast of the UK. When we emigrated, we found beaches to live by here, and now my children are doing likewise!

Just a Plane Ride Away said...

Darn... wish I had known about this place! On my list of places to go "next time".

Glorious photos, Bee!!

willow said...

Shell and fossil hunting is so therapeutic. Your daughter looks like a lovely mermaid resting on that rock.

Fossils...archeology...our minds are on the same track again!

marja-leena said...

Wonderful day, even if no fossils found!

ArtSparker said...

Funnily enough (pretending to be British), I was just looking at this post recently. It's actually in Kent, so I know it's not the same beach and cliff

Congratulations on the weather. My sister lives in Exeter and I've also heard tales of overly hot weather occurring in August in recent yearscausing bicycle tires got stuck to the tarmac.

Star said...

Hang on tight to those memories and carve them deeply in your heart, for the days are getting shorter and, as you say, soon your children will have other interests and you will slide a little way down their list.
Blessings, Star

A Thousand Clapping Hands said...

A fossil hunting day is a day I would love! And what a perfect rock for your 'mermaid'.

Lisa said...

What a fine day! How beautiful - the sky, the sea. Just gorgeous. I'm so glad you went and shared those moments with your daughter. Time slips by so quickly.....

And I owe you an email regarding Indiana. My people were mostly on the border of Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky with names like McMullen, Lawson, Canfield and Hewitt.

Lucy said...

Almost Carribean blue there, a lovely sunny post. I love that Dorset coast, spent most of my early childhood holidays there, though further along at Charmout and Lyme.

Delwyn said...

Hello Bee,

It sure looks blue and warm today...

Happy Days

Bee said...

Catalyst - that sounds like a good explanation!

Lizzy - It can definitely be chilly in May! The warm weather was a gift from the gods.

Beth - Hopefully, she will cling to 11 a bit longer; sigh. Doesn't Dorset have a lovely sound to it? It's Hardy country.

Cipriano - Yes, I have read On Chesil Beach. In fact, I was looking at the hardcover last night and you are right about the picture. I'm not sure how close it is to Seatown, but they are definitely both Dorset Coast.

Margaret - I guess that everyone always remembers their "bucket and spade" holidays.

JAPRA - We can go when you come visit me! ;) I'm already planning another trip this summer.

Willow - Well, it's a natural progression from genealogy . . . or perhaps that is the other way around?

Marja-leena - We did find the odd partial ammonite . . . but the weather was the real treasure.

ArtSparker - Before we moved to England three years ago, they were having a drought. The last two summers have been wet and cold, though. I will check out my "twin" post.

Star - I have a teenage daughter, so I am sadly aware of that!

A Thousand Clapping Hands - Yes, you and my daughter are definitely on the same wave-length. (She brought back all sorts of shells.)

Lisa - I feel kind of guilty when I think of how much you need a beach holiday! xx

Lucy - Seatown is only a few miles from the more famous Lyme Regis.

Delwyn - And it is a gorgeous sunny day today, too!

Jenny Woolf said...

Lovely photographs, a glimpse into an idyllic day and a little piece of childhood.

JaneyV said...

Oh how I love the Dorset coastline. When my mother-in-law lived near Bournemouth we were down there every few weeks. I'm more familiar with The Purbecks than this stretch leading toward Devon but I have been to Chesil Beach. It an horrendously difficult beach to walk on as the pebbles slip away under your feet. It was one of the many things that wound me up about On Chesil Beach that McEwan has the main protagonists running down it - physically impossible. (Oh how picky of me).

There is nothing as wonderful as a beach on a warm sunny day is there? Even my 14-year old who will wear a cardigan or sweatshirt on the hottest of days will spend hours in the freezing cold water. And I will sit and read a book in absolute bliss and contentment. I couldn't bear to be too far from the coast. Although the southeast coast of England (about 20 minutes drive from me) isn't very pretty (all pebbles very little sand), it still has the quality of light and air that somehow stirs the soul.

You have just reminded me that we need to visit Dorset again.

Sarah Laurence said...

Magical! What gorgeous photos and prose. I feel like I was on the beach with you. I needed that on this third straight day of wet, cold rain. This is my punishment for whining about the heat wave.

I took my daughter to the beach on Memorial Day too - sunny but cool. I hope the kids never outgrow the beach. I haven't.

The Clever Pup said...

What a wonderul Rupert Bear - type holiday. Sound's like you'll have nice memories.

Jocelyn said...

Bee- we had a 'current family' holiday on that coast just a few years ago, and memories of family holidays of our own childhood. Lunch at the Anchor was a long affair with so many of us (16) but it was worth it. As children we used to climb Golden Cap most Easter or Whitsun holidays.
The innocence of the pre-adolescent age is something to hold on to for as long as you can. I miss it even as I celebrate the achievements of the late teen and early twenties.

Lover of Life said...

Hi - just stopped by via ExPat's blog. Love your writing style and can totally relate to the daughter who wants one foot in the sea.

Anne said...

Beautiful! What a gorgeous almost-summer day. Was the water very cold?

I'm glad you got to spend such a lovely day with your (younger, I assume) daughter.

Elizabeth said...

I'll take the beach in any weather .......anywhere.
Such a lovely essay.
Some beaches from England:

Menabilly Barton
Seaview IOW
Thorpe Bay

Going to the beach must rank as the healthiest pastime, along with tree climbing.

Reading very soon after these.
Happy weekend.

Bee said...

Jenny - Thanks for visiting.

Janey - I enjoyed your reminiscences. I didn't attempt to run on the beach, but I'm going to try that next time I visit! I have vowed that we will visit Seatown again this summer -- should we be blessed by more sunny days.

Sarah - I can't quite believe that we have rolled back around to summer. I suppose that you will be visiting Nantucket again?

The Clever Pup - Your comment made me smile. Yes, it's nice when an English day/place is the way it is SUPPOSED to be.

Jocelyn - I love that you have been to this beach, and have so many happy memories of this stretch of coast. Perhaps one day we can walk the southwest coastline together?

Lover of Life - What IS that gravitational pull? Thanks for the kind feedback.

Anne - I only dipped a foot in the water, but little daughter managed to get completely soaked! It was cold, yes; but the air was properly warm.

Elizabeth - I need to visit all of your beaches . . . on warm, sunny days, please.

Rinkly Rimes said...

What blissful memories! And I love Dorset.

Maggie May said...


Anonymous said...

Sounds perfect to me. Love your descriptions.

Anil P said...

Brought ries of the fossil dig I went on in Central India in the middle of a tribal village, the excitement, the apprehension of how efforts were being received by the tribals.

Almost like going back in time in trying to 'unlock' the past.

Nice pictures.

Bee said...

Rinkly Rimes - I'm so glad that I finally started taking pictures. It helps the memory along . . .

Thanks, Maggie May. Our weather was almost Californian!

The Things We Carried - It was perfection; one of the best days I've ever had in England.

Anil - Fossils are a fascinating treasure.

herhimnbryn said...

The photographs of your children by the sea, could be Laura Knight paintings. I love that part of the UK. It holds many happy memories for me, for you too it seems!

A Thousand Clapping Hands said...

Hi Bee -
Thanks so very much! I am a breakfast cake eater for sure! Unfortunately, the cake eating and chocolate indulgences have caught up with my waist line and I am on a diet. The rest of the cake ended up at our restaurant where the staff happily eats up any of my leftover baking.
I love Julia Reed's essays on New Orleans too!
Enjoy your weekend, Bee -

Chairman Bill said...

God, I wish I could post pictures of my kids on my blog. Unfortunately the ex won't let me, just in case there's a paedophile around the corner.

Actually, more likely so SHE can't be identified. It would be too embarassing for her, given the way she behaves.

Reya Mellicker said...

Wow, fabulous post. Even the title is perfect.

I love all the pics and want to say: yes the sea is imprinted on your daughter. No doubt!

Also: they'll come back around to enjoying this kind of day after the thrashings of adolescence. They will!

Fantastic Forrest said...

Lovely, lovely post. You have such a way with words and the camera, Bee.

I heart your little mermaid. I was born in Chicago, but have the same beachy water addiction. Do you have any sea creatures there, like anemones or starfish? The Oregon coast is too cold for swimming, but the consolation prize is that we get to see those fun little animals.

I hope my two never tire of the beach and generally just being with me, enjoying beautiful places. But I know that the day will come when I'm no longer in their top ten list of chosen companions. While that's a bit painful, ultimately, I suppose it's more healthy that way - as long as they choose excellent friends as I YOU. :-)

Bee said...

herhimnbryn - I had visions of myself moving there! I don't know Laura Knight's work, but I will look her up.

A Thousand Clapping Hands - Lucky restaurant staff! That cake looked absolutely scrumptious.

Chairman Bill - I try to be "discreet" when posting photos of the children. I'm sorry that you have a difficult ex-wife.

Reya - thanks so much. I think that almost everyone loves the beach, really, but she just loves it that bit extra.

FF - thank you for this generous, exuberant comment. You are my ideal reader. mwah!

julochka said...

imprinted by the caribbean is a lovely thought...and what a lovely day you had. :-)

Dick said...

Timeless pictures. I have similar photos of R, R and M, and of Lin and Zoe 30 years before them, and of me in black and white on Dorset beaches further back again. Simple treasures.

Bee said...

Julochka - I brought back a smooth stone . . . which reminded me of you! It was a happy, happy day.

Dick - And what I love is that the landscape is so timeless . . . and somehow, therefore, we "in" it.