Sunday, 23 September 2012

look at the country, man, it's looking so nice

O who can pass such lovely spots
Without a wish to stray
And leave life's cares a while forgot
To muse an hour away?

Last weekend and we awoke to a beautiful mid-September day and decided to just get the van and go away for the rest of the weekend. To hell with work and other (possibly) pressing matters, we thought.  Or, as the late, great Jimmy Alan Hull said, "Had more than my share of people giving advice, on the way that my life should be/But look at the country man it's looking so nice/it's feeling so good to be free./No time, no time to lose/No time, no time to lose". So, Mrs Dave and I quickly got down to the place where we keep Harvey and loaded him up with a few necessities* and off we went.  

I'd had a hankering to visit the island of Mersea for a long time now. Much like Lindisfarne (ooh, did you notice the a connection there?) it's an island that can be cut off by the tide. We got there early afternoon last Saturday and soon managed to find the campsite. I was immediately taken by the amount of bramble bushes behind us and was soon out with a plastic bag to fill up with blackberries:   Our hands were peppered with thorn pricks, our palms as sticky as  Bluebeard's**     I had been reliably informed that our local wild blackberries were fairly meagre - not so at Mersea.  Only thirty five or so miles away from home but absolutely heaving with goodly sized berries. There were a lot of huge red seed pod-things which, at the time, we weren't sure of.  Still, we were here for the weekend - time to worry about them later. After a quick lunch we went off to discover the village and shoreline of West Mersea.

sad deserted shore
 I don't think I've been to anywhere that has been so abundant with wild blackberries in all my life other than the occasional wild wood, mostly last Century. The island is quite well inhabited - it's only a few miles out of Colchester, so therefore close to London. There were blackberries growing everywhere - and those large red seed pods.  I didn't think they were rosehips as most of the rosehips I was aware of were quite small - these were huge. I've since discovered that they are Japanese Rose plants and are much more potent than our indiginous wild roses. I'm a bit annoyed as I could have picked thousands of them easily, but at least I'm aware of them so can keep an eye out for them in the future. They are gigantic - absolutely packed with Vitamin C.  Actually, tonight we had a wonderful pie Mrs D made using the residue of blackberries after Second Born (a brief visit) had finished making jam from the hoard. Meanwhile . . . after wandering around the island and witnessing a genuine Essex Big Fat Gypsy Wedding reception*** and buying a few dressed crabs for tea, we found ourselves on a salt marsh. As we sauntered across the wooden boards I spied from my little eye . . . samphire! I'd finally found some wild growing samphire.  Okay, so a bit out of season, but there it was.  I picked some much to the chagrin of Mrs Dave. A passer-by or two questioned her about me jumping off the causeway with a pair of scissors stripping the little elegant Triffid-like plants of their succulent "branches".  But, what the hey? We wandered home across the sadly deserted shore and I cooked them briefly in some water (no steamer in the van) and they were great. They tasted superb - the genuine haunt of the sea in each mouthful. The English Countryside is so diverse and life-restoring.
By 9:30, after finishing the i crossword and a glass or two of wine, we were ready to turn in.  It's the sea air, it really does relax you. We'd looked out at the evening sky and saw a beautiful end to the day but its promise didn't hold out.  Although Sunday morning was okay, it was a little disappointing, weather-wise. Still, we found an English vineyard which provided a rather excellent dry white wine that we supped this evening with our gammon and some interesting beers from the Mersea Brewery (yet to try).   Still, what a weekend. We realised that it's worth going away for a few days just to get away from the hubbub of everyday to revitalise the old batteries.  And it really did make a difference to how we felt during the early part of the week. Okay, it will never last but at least we felt good for a day or two . . . how will we feel tomorrow after being cooped up at home with poor weather?  Answers on a postcard . . .   Back to reality and this weekend we had work to do - painting bits of wall, shopping to do, school work (although no one believes that as we're all lazy and out of school by three o'clock) and our own homes to deal with:

49 reasons all in a line.
All of them good ones, all of them lies.
Driftin' with my lady we're oldest of friends.
Need a little work, and there's fences to mend.

Ah well, the summer holidays are long forgotten and life is back to normal. I do hope we've all had a good summer. Let's get back to normal and start blogging again, chaps, I feel that I need the intellectual stimulation.

* beer, bacon and a raincoat
** Seamus Heaney
*** you really should have seen the bridesmaid . . . as she turned round at different times we realised why 3D is fast becoming such a popular format: oh she's got a tatoo on her arm, oh and that one, jesus! - look at her back, it's Ray Bradbury in real life! 


Andy Wright said...

Hi Dave. Great post. Been to Mersea a couple of times myself over the years and it really is quite a special place and despite it's proximity to Colchester (and indeed the Capital) it does have an isolated feel,no doubt enhanced by the knowledge that it really can be 'cut off' at certain times from the rest of the world. In my previous life I got to know the Town Clerk at Sawbridgeworth who lived on Mersea and despite the fact that Sawbridgeworth could in no way be compared to The Bronx (or indeed Stevenage) he said he was always glad to get back home and 'away from it all' (!) Just come back from another island, Cumbrae in North Ayrshire,where as you know my brother has a place. No blackberries that I could see but plenty of peace,glorious sun sets, seals and crystal clear water oh (and as far as my 'little' brother was concerned) far too much Talisker (if that's possible!).

Your reference to Mr.Still's song took me back, way back to those wonderful days when we played 'Four Way Street' at volume 150 and swore to each other we were as good as CSN (and particularly) Y, at least in respect of our vocals. Happy,happy days.

By the way I have NEVER known a teacher (and I know a few) who is lazy or who leaves school at 3pm.......but of course much like the constant,viscious and at the same time pathetic and groundless attacks by Government and the media on my previous profession it suits this dispicable Administration to paint ALL in those working in Public Service as 'Overpaid,overweight,lazy and probably racist Plebs'. Keep smiling, that will REALLY piss them off!

Dave Leeke said...

Hi Andy, thank you.

My memories of Sawbridgeworth was when Rob Yeoman used to take us there occaionally - a sort of cultural exchange between youth groups, I suppose. It certainly never appeared too be a hub of much activity in those days. Everything changes.

Still, islands are great places to visit - there's usually very much a community feel to them - definitely oases away from mainlands. Over recent years I've visited Halki, Meganisi, Skye,Islay, Lindisfarne, Mersea and probably others. I'd quite like to live on an island - maybe in another lifetime.

Yes, those days were indeed happy ones. I still feel that they were much more innocent times than kids seem to live today. I could be wrong. I know we dabbled in things we shouldn't much as kids today do, but I don't think we were as 'knowing' as they appear to be.

Thanks for the comments about Public Service, you obviously know the score. I bet you're happy to be away from it especially given the amount of bad press your former profession gets.

By the way, how much Talisker IS too much?