The new hair style came with a celebration outing. I hadn’t even told EBF that I’d booked it in to get it done. So when I opened the door, she just looked up at me with her mouth agape; like one of those Carnival clown games on pause. Her mouth grew wider and then a sound came out; a shriek, an exclamation of ‘who are you?’ with a whole lot of wow-ness and a lot of ‘I cannot believe you did it!’
I’d gathered some antipasti treats and we packed up the Mini to have dinner al fresco, out on Old Harry’s Rock; a grassy bit of land that dropped down into the sea. A spot where walkers wandered to look out to the view of the English coast, and to the birds nesting on Old Harry, as he jutted out with his chest puffed up against the tough waves.
To get there we drove passed the prime land of Southbank that was touted to have been among the most expensive real estate spots in Europe. I looked at it, from the chain ferry we’d boarded, and wondered how… or why? The thought was quickly carried off as the wind whipped at my freshly chopped locks and we took selfies, still not believing that it was me.
Old Harry’s Rock was a small trek past an old stone pub called The Bankes Arms. Once a year it hosts a beer festival across the road in the paddock set up with picnic tables, looking out to the sea. Locals cycle to the event, until they can only just maintain enough bike balance to get home.
We walked down a windy road, up a hedge-lined path, and alongside a fenced off field. I thought we were walking forever, until we crossed a grassy slope and found a place that was far enough away from the cliff’s edge, but close enough to see the waves pawing at the stones below. The sea line contrasted with a stripe along the edge of the earth.
EBF placed down a candy pink yoga mat for a table and I laid out our ‘delicious treats from packets’ spread. Not long after I’d smooshed my first scoop of fromage onto a cracker, a large seagull started circling the area; until it found a landing spot very close to our picnic dinner. There was a whole field for it swoon in on, but no… Gilbert stood still, staring in our direction.
He cocked his head to the side, ‘gazing’ out toward the horizon, feigning his motive for being there. I cast a glance at him in a way that I thought had sent the message that this was our dinner eating territory and really, he should just politely leave. Every time I turned to take a bite, Gilbert had made one step closer. And when I glared at him, he’d look away, stepping sideways here and there, while trying to inch in closer.
“Go away! This is not a seagull’s dinner. It is ours! It is human food.”
It is hard to completely enjoy your meal when a Gilbert is slyly muscling in… but dayum! That feast was delicious and I had new hair.
We were full by the time Gilbert’s gang had arrived and perched at three guard post points, leaving EBF and in the middle. But the posse had moved on at the flick of the mat. All of them… except Gilbert. He sifted in closer while casually looking around at nothing in particular up in the air. If he could whistle and put his wings into his pockets, I’ve no doubt that he would’ve.
I’d made sure that the only evidence we’d left were crumbs for the ants and a couple of slimy tomato seeds. Across the meadow, I could see that Gilbert had cautiously moved in to where the grass was now flat. Finding nothing, he buggered off. Ha!
And then we met Paddy, the curiously affectionate shaggy dog.
Back at the Bankes’, we’d opted for a beverage to indulge in, across the road in the sunset. There was a middle-aged man with his hand clawed around the handle of his pint. Paddy came over and introduced himself, by sitting and staring at the marshmallows falling out of EBF’s hot chocolate. His eyes followed the drips and drops beneath his bushy brows, with a line of saliva drooping from his tongue.
The owner came over and we said hello and started talking about the dog.
“I’ve been to where you’re from. I’ve lived there”, he stated proudly.
“Oh yeah…. what place is that?” I enquired.
“What part are you from?”
“…From the Bay of Plenty.”
“Oh yeah, I think I’ve been there… that’s down near Adelaide…”
“Hmmm… (wrong country) I’m from New Zealand.”
He then went on to tell us random and interesting stories about his travelling life in his younger days, the kind that you share with strangers… because sometimes it’s easier to tell weird stories to the unknown.
We took the long way home, via Corfe Castle. It was that eerie time of day when the world transitions, and in one moment you can see the tree ahead and in another it’s gone. The most exciting thing was being amused at the Mini parked in a bus bay. And the donut that EBF couldn’t pull off. So she went around and around the roundabout instead. And I laughed and laughed until the forced sound scratched my throat into hoarseness. And then we went around again. It was a big roundabout, too. The kind with stuff in the middle, that once was pretty.
Bournemouth was shaping up to be a place that I’d make new animal friends and meet some shifty ones, too. Coming up is some exciting news; how I’m learning to book flights on a whim (which is completely against my scheduled nature of wanting to know what’s happening next), how I signed up to a volunteer website, and receiving a bunch of free tulips from a florist who called my mid-thigh length dress, a top.
As always… until then, x