COLD, WET and WINDY
Endless miles of cold, wet shingle totally deserted except for the odd seagull or two. That was the scene I faced as I sat in my car 2 days before the Easter holidays.
The Dorset coast is full of endless beauty that literally bites into one's inner being, offering the subtle temptation to walk along the breathtaking coastline. Today however, was a different tale with driving rain and a force 9 gale that threatened to blow me off the cliff edge I was precariously parked upon.
Just where do you go when the sunny dry weather you have been expecting does not materialise? When all you have with you are sun clothes such as T shirts, shorts and sandals? Bad planning one may say but I was really believing for good weather; nay praying for it after being penned in my office for many cold months.
I had always classed myself as an outdoors man; a man close to nature.
"Must be the Army training," I thought to myself.
The problem was my idea of outdoor activities only existed in warm sunny weather. Any hint of cold, wind and rain and I went into a decline, huddling up in doors before a warm fire. And yet, here I was in the heart of the Dorset coastline being battered by the wind; sodden with the pouring rain and frozen to the skin in the bargain.
"I could always stay in the chalet," I thought to myself.
The thought of that appealed to me. It had central heating, a television and was close to a pub. What more could a man ask for?
There was only one problem to all of this and she was my wife. I was soon informed that she did not intend to spend the whole of our Easter holiday inside a chalet or, indeed a pub. Furthermore it was my bad planning that I had only brought summer clothes with me. I had been told otherwise but would not listen!
My feeble attempts to protest were all in vain and within a very short time, I found myself being practically frog marched around the town until we came to the local camping shop.
Within a very short time span, I walked out of the shop with a wet weather coat, hat, gloves, boots, shirts, and a jumper. Some £400 lighter, may I add and considerably depressed as well.
As we drove back to our chalet, the rain continued to bucket down and I feared; no hoped, we'd all be washed away in a flood and that would be the end of it all. This didn't happen of course and we arrived safely at our chalet. My wife advised me to change at once into my newly acquired outfit and within a few moments, I was transferred into something that resembled a mixture of Action Man or a character from Meet the Fockers. I think it was more the latter than the former.
My wife wasted no more time and I found myself being driven back up the road until we came to a nature reserve. We parked in the road and although there was no respite in the weather, we entered the reserve and began walking along the muddy bank, binoculars at the ready.
"What are we looking for?" I asked my wife.
"Birds, what do you think," she replied.
"Birds?" I exclaimed. "They won't be out in this weather, they've got more sense."
"Oh yea," she answered, "what's that then?"
I followed her gaze and looking out over the lake I saw a large variety of different birds feeding and generally going about their different chores.
To get a better view, we went into a wooden building the experts in the UK call a hide. It was fascinating to be able to look out at different species of bird life and observe their actions. I must admit that I was beginning to enjoy myself by now and I was much warmer than I had originally been, which obviously made it more tolerable.
I was quite disappointed when my wife suggested lunch as it meant leaving our hunting ground where we had been so close to nature and meant going back into the world of humanity.
With lunch out of the way, it was decided we would head to a local wood that had a nature trail offering the opportunity of seeing red deer, rare birds and beautiful carpets of bluebells. The rain was still pouring but the wind had subsided a little, especially as we went more inland.
The drive took us roughly 20 minutes and we eventually drove up a bumpy track and parked in a muddy car parking area. I say muddy; perhaps a quagmire would be more appropriate.
My wife made the mistake of driving too close to the bank and the back wheels sunk into the ground.
"Come on," she said, "we'll sort this out later, let's go and look at the bluebells."
I started to protest but very quickly ceased as I began to take in the sheer beauty my eyes were witnessing. Everywhere I looked was just a mass of blue; rather like one large carpet. It was breathtaking and I must admit, I had never seen anything so wonderful.
As we slipped and slithered along the track, squirrels raced here and there busily gathering acorns and such to satisfy their raging hunger. Every now and then, a bird would emit loud cries and my wife took great delight in identifying them. Before too long, we came to a picnic area and although it was still teeming down, we stopped and had a drink of coffee from a flask that I carried in my newly acquired coat.
We must have spent 3 hours there before our stomachs began to tell us we needed to be somewhere else; namely the fish and chip shop.
We arrived back at the car and suddenly remembered the back wheels were bogged down in the mud. It was decided - by my wife of course - that I should push or rock the car whilst she sat behind the wheel. Fortunately it did not take very long before we were free, but the price paid was that I was covered from head to toe in thick, slimy mud; all over my new clothes.
I said nothing; my wife said nothing, as we drove back to the chalet. Every now and then, I was certain she was sniggering but when I looked at her, she pretended to be clearing her throat. I caught a glimpse of myself in the interior mirror and came to the conclusion that I looked as if I had been doing a session of mud wrestling. To be honest though, I had enjoyed the day immensely and even though I was covered in mud; and it was cold; and it was still raining, I could not remember a more fulfilling day.
Over the next few days, even though there was little change in the weather we walked miles. I learned the basics of bird watching. I learned to chill out by just walking along a windy beach with the waves crashing all around. I also enjoyed just kicking up the leaves as we walked through endless fields and woods just taking in the whole of nature.
However, what I learned more than any other thing was, it does not have to be fine weather in order to be able to enjoy yourself. It helps, of course it does but even though it may be cold, wet and windy, there is enjoyment out there and all it needs is sensible dress, will power and the ability to laugh at yourself from time to time.
A sun scorched beach in Majorca with a full glass of what you fancy is very nice and relaxing. However life is what you make it and if the good old British weather threatens to be awful, take courage and ensure you have suitable clothing with you and get out and enjoy. You may, like I did, discover interests you never realised were there.
© 2009 Grahame Howard
If anyone would like a PDF file of this completely free, please contact me.