The Viking arrived safely in Wessex. I met him at the penultimate train of the day. Fortunately, he alighted after a few of our chavs boarded. It would have been a terrible first impression if his first experience in Dorset’s county town was a couple of drunken junkies. We were able to slip away from the lunacy that is Corn Market at night. Well, it’s rather tame compared to, say, London, Bristol or Brum but it’s not the idyll that one normally associates with the county.
He seems to have enjoyed Dorset. I took him around Dorchester and some of the surrounding villages. The Keep military museum was interesting. There are some artefacts of interest and merit, Hitler’s desk, uniforms, etc. Most famous is the view. From the roof you can see for miles around. He also thoroughly enjoyed a fresh Dorset cream tea. There’s a small tea house from 1635 run by a local woman who practically grew up there. Everything is fresh, local and made from scratch. Like most things in England, it isn’t that the country is that exciting or fiery. No, the charm is that it is very pleasant.
Take, for example, the ice cream we ate together in the Catholic church’s garden. There are only a handful of fresh, local ingredients. You can taste everything there and you don’t need an advanced degree in chemistry to understand it. That, and the church garden is lovely — a beautiful, well-kept English garden. It lacks the splendour of a French garden, but it is more real, more natural.
In the same way, he enjoyed the walk to Stinsford and its ancient chapel. Stinsford is small, but it’s very pleasant. The woods are lovely. What passes as a river is, more a creek, is amusing. It was nice just to sit at its banks and put my feet in. The chapel was remarkable. For as small as it is, there is so much history in it — so much care. It betrays one of England’s great quirks. You might need to dodge puddles of vomit on the high street and avoid the drug-addled junkie, but go a few streets away and there’s respite, something to remind you that not all is wrong with the world.
Likewise, the food surprised him. The local West Country cheeses are second to none. French cheeses are more famous, but English cheeses are just as good, if not better — as is fresh English butter. The locally roasted coffee was good and he left with a few bags of local infusion, blended and packed in-shop. We didn’t get to see as much of Dorset as we would have liked. Part of it is because there is enough in Dorchester to keep anyone entertained for a few days at least. Part of it is that I had to work. The final assignments for the summer term came in and I had to mark them. He was tired from the walking and he enjoyed relaxing, so no harm was done.
The highlight for him was Bath. I told him before we arrived that only one other city is worthy of comparison with Bath and that is Edinburgh. Only Edinburgh is worthy of Bath, only Bath is worthy of Edinburgh. Nowhere else in the world compares to either. His doubt were cast away as our train pulled in. It was just as I promised. The Abbey, despite some conservation work being done, overwhelmed him. The circuses and the Royal Crescent amazed him. Bath doesn’t feel cheap. Despite the number of visitors, it didn’t feel clichéd or tired. Our lunch, Nepali, was a first for him and he was nothing less than thoroughly chuffed.
The final highlight of Bath was cream tea at Sally Lunn’s. He’s never had anything like that, a Sally Lunn’s bun. Nor has he ever had fresh lemon curd. The closest he’s had was in a West Country yoghurt I rather enjoy — thank you, Waitrose! He liked Dorset, but he loved Bath. You never can forget it.
I insisted that he cannot leave without eating a Cornish pasty. On the way to train station, I popped in at a local shop that sells nothing else. As it was early morning, they had a full selection and they were all hot from the oven. It held him through a long day of travel to Copenhagen.
It was an idiosyncratic visit in the most English way possible. The Church of England left him bemused. He wasn’t sure if it wasn’t a watered-down version of Catholicism. Actually, he’s probably right. Not being a religious person, it was unusual for him and it was rather different from the Church of Denmark which he is more accustomed to. He’s not a convert, but it was one more experience. He pillaged Dorset’s hearts. Everyone loved him and after two weeks people still talk about him. Once the excitement subsides, my existence might once again be recognised. The fate of a brunette when a blonde enters the room… Harrumph!
We’ll meet again in October when we fly together to Japan. I will have to bribe him with Moores Biscuits and lemon melts from Scotland. Oh, and a bottle of elderflower cordial.