B&B’s are funny places. Even when you get a good one you can’t help that feeling of being in a stranger’s home. Unlike a hotel the whole concept of carrying on like a louche rockstar is automatically exchanged for a sort of middle England stand-off. The overtly personal hospitability is unsettling enough, when you add-on the fact that these people are total strangers it all gets a bit odd.
IC and I set off for the New Forest after lunch on Friday. My sister had kindly loaned us her car and there we were, the last of the hangover fading on the M3 before being plunged into otherworldly woodland. London far behind we allowed ourselves to relax in our new environment. We arrived at our first destination in the pretty harbour town of Lymington just after 5, the hosts were a weird middle-aged couple, polite but wary of their two reasonably alternatively-presented guests, and after being shown around we unpacked, showered and hit the town as it were.
That evening we drank and ate in a splendid little boozer on the quay facing out to the Isle of Wight (even bumping into friends briefly) and the following morning had breakfast that was presented to us by the B&B bloke like some sort of gourmet masterpiece, the fucking milk was off to start with and the table was dressed like something out of Abigail’s Party. Still it was a damn site better than the dead pig sandwiches I had to suffer in the second place.
The landlady in a seaside place just down the road from Lymington had hungry childless eyes. She was a wrinkly old blonde who took great delight in telling us she’d had ‘lovely gays’ staying there in the past, in hindsight I think she was showing off her self-perceived liberalism which was negated by the copies of the Daily fucking Mail and disgusting tastes in pictures, two of which were mauve and gold fabric bows glued into a picture frame. IC, being a vegetarian, ordered a breakfast of eggs mushrooms and toast that was refused on the grounds that ‘eggs and mushrooms don’t go’ bafflingly. Still, she did give us a lift to the pub so she wasn’t all bad.
The pub in question was lovely. IC and I had spent the day on the Isle of Wight in the burning sunshine and only eaten two modest (though fucking lovely) crab sandwiches. We’d ferried there and back and wandered on the beach to the fort as the yachts from Cowes swarmed in the East. The day tricked past in a most congenial manner despite our being attacked by wasps in a secluded café. By the time we arrived at the cosy boozer we were hungry and thirsty, the beer was cheap and delicious and the atmosphere local and civilised. We were rather taken with whole set-up actually even if I made the mistake of not ordering the haddock.
After the dreadful breakfast we set off on a little tour. The weather wasn’t being very helpful so we visited Bath to check the Cathedral stopping at Stonehenge for a while along the way. Late in the afternoon we pootled down to the coast and made an unfortunate decision.
Seaton is in Devon. It’s between the bum cheeks of Sidmouth and Lyme Regis; it’s the arsehole in the middle. IC and I landed there through a combination of acute desperation and mirthless bad luck. After heroically deciding we’d book the first two B&B’s we’d, like, leave the third and fourth nights to, like, fate, yeah. After passing through some of the most beautiful countryside and coastal villages known to planet Earth it became increasingly clear there was more chance of securing accommodation that there was of my having sex with the original cast of Dad’s Army.
It was getting late, after a behemoth drive I was in severe need of a pint. The endless ‘no vacancies’ and ‘full’ signs outside picturesque little cottages had become more mundane than David Cameron, the fact that IC and I paid scant attention to the locale of the only available B&B for almost a day is a testament to this. We only knew it was near the sea and there was a pub around.
I don’t think the landlady had seen people since the 50’s. Past middle age with smoker’s teeth and cough she was pleasant enough but on sight began talking at great fucking length finishing virtually every sentence with ‘well, I’m keeping you’ and doing her best to stop us from doing anything save fixing watery grins and nodding like public loo wankers. It seemed like the Jurassic age before we saw one of the six vacant rooms. Once in I closed the door so fast behind me I nearly slammed it into my face.
Driven by hunger and the need to drink something we managed to escape to the pub at dusk. The pub was dreadful, it was empty and vaguely threatening but in comparison to the other booze-choices, a skinhead kicking and Ebola, it was the best of a bad bunch. The food was so rank I don’t even remember eating it; my mind has simply shut it out like sexual abuse. But we were saved by the beach late at night, even having spent time in the desert I’ve never seen so many stars with so much clarity. As the sea chewed at the pebbles the vast expanse of water beamed the sky back into the heavens: a velvet black fibre optic canopy. It was fucking awesome, our heads blown we snuck back into our hovel and woke up with the good weather already fading into the South.
It took us an age to leave, Gobshite just wouldn’t let us go and we found ourselves reversing out the door to a chorus of ‘don’t let me stop you’ and lamenting the fact we didn’t take her up on the breakfast. I reckon if we had we’d still be there having hanged ourselves from the ceiling with her still prattling on.
Seaton during the day was grubby but had an English seaside quaintness, of sorts. It wouldn’t have been too bad if it was for the fact that four fifths of the population are over eighty and the rest are cunts -which means by default the old ones are a sort of hybrid-cunt born of Murray Mints and Parkinson’s. One in two of the residents have one of those electric spannercars; they were everywhere, parked outside bakeries by the dozen as gangs of pre-cadavers rigidly filed past with scant regard of pedestrians. There was even a garage arrangement that sold them (they’re over a grand each) with slick suited salesmen pitching the slowly passing stiffs. It brings to mind The Idler’s Crap Towns, Hull won it hands down but the author should check this place out, it was fucking hideous.
We left the place shortly after as if we were on fire. During the night a squadron of seagulls had taken it on themselves to shit all over my car which just seems about a perfect metaphor for the place. Seaton, I wonder who slipped the ‘e’ into that name…
On the road again, we were now unsure as to what to do. We even discussed the possibility of going home. Don’t get me wrong, we were in excellent cheer but neither of us wanted to encounter such negative serendipity for a second night in a row and have to pay for it. We headed East and stopped off at Lyme Regis which re-ignited our joy. The weather was mainly hot and sunny but the beach, whilst bustling, wasn’t overcrowded. The small town was busy and friendly and in total opposition to the gawping little graveyard from where we had come from, we decided that if we could find accommodation we’d like to stay.
I must pause briefly to celebrate the lunch we had looking over the bay. Thinking about it now I’m genuinely drooling, it was a sandwich of such subtle magnificence that I’m fairly sure it will one of things that flash before my eyes as I shuffle off this mortal coil. The bread was white and fresher than the North wind it was lightly buttered and crammed full of fresh crabmeat with a touch of lettuce to give it some crunch. Sweet baby Christ, it’s worth going there just for that.
After failing to secure a place to stay, we got close mind you, IC and I drove out of the town and skimmed Bournemouth which was shit, frankly, and stopped off at Christchurch for a cup of tea. Christchurch should be re-named Kensington-on-the-Whartar, it’s a pretty place of that there’s no doubt but the residence are more stuck-up than Hyacinth Bouquet with a broom up her arsehole, which spoils it to death. This wasn’t paramount in our minds, by now our thoughts were occupied with what to do.
So we decided that we’d like to go back home via little seaside place near Lymington. If we found somewhere to stay near the splendid pub at the right price we’d stay, if not, we’d go. We arrived at six and parked the car by the village green, IC suggested we walk to the pub and ask if they knew of anywhere and it was as we were approaching it serendipity paid us back for Seaton.
A few yards from the pub was a pretty B&B by a small river, not only did the rather well-to-do landlady have a room it was reasonably priced with a sumptuous bedroom and a huge bathroom containing a shower so immensely powerful I was lucky to come out with my hair. Five star stuff.
We ended our little vacation with food and beer in the pub and indulging in my new found liking for Amaretto. After a stunning cooked breakfast in the morning (IC got her egg and mushrooms), which was as good as the room, we hopped into the car and headed back to London in the pissing rain. We weren’t fussed, we were done.
We heard this song driving through the New Forest, not my usual fare but it’s as pretty as the little seaside village near Lymington, which I’ve been careful to not name, I hasten to add. We own it.