Dorset is the home of my childhood holidays. My dad and his lady used to take me to a farm in Winterborne Kingston, and we’d spend a week touring around Dorset and Devon in an old minivan that had seen better days. They were both chain smokers, so in hindsight, it was amazing we saw anything at all through the haze of smoke from Old Virginia tobacco.
Dad and my (now) stepmother had joined The National Trust, so we could visit places for free. As a child I wasn’t wildly keen about being dragged around all these old relics, but I could be pacified with a drink and a cake in the tea rooms. Nothing much has changed. I’m still easily pleased with coffee and cake.
Two of my favourite places to visit were Durdle Door and Corfe Castle, both places visited by the Olympic Torch today. As I write this the Torch has already set off on its journey. Torch bearers, I wish you a safe passage and no rain.
Corfe Castle was the stuff that my fertile imagination squirreled into stories. A thousand-year-old royal castle shaped by warfare, it stood strong and proud as the English Civil War raged around it. In my mind I was Lady Bankes defending the castle against Oliver Cromwell’s Roundheads, only to be betrayed by one of my soldiers. I could see the pain as the castle was demolished, not by time and wear, but by gunpowder, as Captain Hughes of Lulworth packed deep holes with gunpowder to bring the towers and ramparts crashing down.
Durdle Door is stunning. Hard on the knees to get down to the beach, but absolutely stunning. Durdle Door is a naturally formed rock arch on an easterly section of the Jurassic Coast between Weymouth and Lulworth Cove. When I say Jurassic Coast I’m not anticipating Richard Attenborough to pop up, you understand. No velociraptors here(thank goodness), but the coastline is a wonderful place to find fossils.
Naturally, Durdle Door has played the backdrop to many films and music videos. I think it is rather indicative of my age and kids that the first film I spotted was Nanny McPhee and music video was Tears for Fears’ Shout.
It is also the image used by Weymouth & Portland National Sailing Academy to promote the 500 days to go to the Olympics opening landmark.
What do I remember about Durdle Door as a kid? Complaining a lot about how my legs ached climbing the steep cliff to the car park. But the view is so worth it. Even a seven year old, standing in the rain, could appreciate what an amazing sight was in front of her. As long as she got an ice cream at the end of the climb.
My story is set on The Isle of Wight, which is tomorrow’s Torch visit, but the idea of the summer holiday is just the same.
The Isle of… Where?
Blurb: When Liam Marshall’s best friend, Alex, loses his fight with colon cancer, he leaves Liam one final request: buy a ticket to Ryde, on the Isle of Wight, and scatter Alex’s ashes off the pier. Liam is tired, worn out, and in desperate need of a vacation, but instead of sun, sea, sand, and hot cabana boys, he gets a rickety old train, revolting kids, and no Ewan MacGregor.
Liam would have done anything for his friend, but fulfilling Alex’s final wish means letting go of the only family Liam had left. Lost, he freezes on the pier… until Sam Owens comes to his rescue.
Sam’s family has vacationed on the Isle of Wight every year for as long as he can remember, but he’s never met anyone like Liam. Determined to make Liam’s vacation one to remember, Sam looks after him—in and out of the bedroom. He even introduces Liam to his entire family. But as Sam helps Liam let go, he’s forced to admit that he wants Liam to hang on—not to his old life, but to Sam and what they have together.
Excerpt: THE conversation had gone something like this:
Alex: “You need a vacation after being stuck inside with me for so long.”
Liam: “Somewhere hot. Sandy beaches, blue sea, hot men.”
Alex: “I can promise you the beaches are sandy.”
Liam: “What do you mean? Alex, what are you planning? I know that look in your eyes. I thought we were talking about a vacation.”
Alex: “I’m offering you a vacation, moron.”
Alex: “The Isle of Wight.”
Liam: “Where the fuck is that?”
Alex: “The UK.”
Liam: “It rains there and the men aren’t hot.”
Alex: “Ewan McGregor, man, Ewan McGregor.”
Liam: “That’s a low blow, even for you.”
Liam’s vision of a tropical vacation with cocktails and cabana boys faded away with the tide and instead there was this, a special hell, surrounded by screaming kids and overweight moms. Alex really knew how to give his best friend a good time.
Liam leaned against the glass and sighed. Somewhere up there, Alex was laughing at him. The bastard could have given him a train ticket to anywhere; the Orient Express, for instance. The lyrics said a “Ticket to Ride,” not fucking Ryde. But no, Alex loved the Isle of Wight after a summer vacation during college and he would not be moved. So a ticket to the ass end of nowhere it was. Maybe Alex had secretly hated him all these years.
The Isle of Wight was obviously a popular destination for families, because from the second Liam had gotten on the ferry to the island he hadn’t been able to get away from whining brats. Liam wasn’t one of those men whose life was going to be completed by progeny. He liked Kathy well enough, even though he’d deny it if pushed, but she was Alex’s kid, so of course Liam liked her. Children en masse were hell on earth. Particularly the little fucker behind him.
The train eventually reached Ryde. Could any train ride be so slow? The island was the size of a handkerchief. The majority of the crowd got off, to Liam’s relief. He was particularly pleased to be rid of the evil kid who had spent most of the journey kicking the back of his seat. After days of riding this train from hell, he had no patience for some bored brat. He’d glared at the monster when the kicking had started, and then tried glaring at the mother. The woman had stared back with sublime indifference. Liam thought about moving to the seat behind the kid and kicking his seat to see how he liked it. He could just imagine how that would go down. Pervert On Train Attacks Small Child! Liam’s imagination ran wild as he visualized the headlines. It might even get on YouTube. Somebody would record it on their cell phone and upload it. Liam shuddered as he imagined the small clip going viral. His mother would never speak to him again. The nightmare had kept him occupied until the train disgorged the horrid child and his equally horrid mother at Ryde Esplanade.
For the couple of minutes it took to get to Ryde Pier Head station, Liam leaned against the back of the seat and closed his eyes. Forget the last few days riding this God-awful train. Today was the day to fulfill Alex’s request. Then he could go home and get on with his life.