Yesterday my boyfriend and I had a day trip to Dorset in Southern England. When I arrived, my state of mind was still critical and slightly threatened. The car journey had not adjusted my outlook of the day of study before, nor of the morning being too hot in my covers and disturbed by dreams about .... I had found the car trip down there worrisome because the brakes on my boyfriend's car are bald and so I kept imagining us careering into a 'lorry' and being on the ITV news (with a gruesome reporter at the scene and then quotes from my facebook wallposts read out).
We arrived in Poole, parked our car in the carpark that had so many "beware of thieves, together we can catch them" signs that I almost decided to can the whole idea and just go home. We bought our tickets to the famous Brownsea Island (birthplace of the scouts) from the ripe banana ticket booth. Yes, the garish colour drew us to that particular booth (and ferry company) over the more tasteful white with blue trimming one next door that was technically closer to the car park. "Ferry riders must still pay an admission fee on the island" - I wondered how many people complained of being misled before that sign was put up. Actually, I wonder how many English people did not complain about this before the sign was put up.
My fellow passengers on the unripe banana ferry were young families (with nearly every kid in pastel-striped clothes, mothers with broad bottoms, pedal pushers, singlet tops or vests, as they call them here, and streaked blond hair and fathers dressed like 14 year olds in simple shorts to the knee, boring cotton t-shirts, new sunglasses with reflectors and chunky 'sandals' and chunky watches), "I can imagine exactly what you looked like as a teenager" scout leaders defiant in their (1984 Australian Olympic team) uniforms and their befringed (and then spiked down into sections across the forehead) charges.
A few of the kids were crying. One child was crying with her mouth full of chocolate that kept falling out onto the floor, only for the mother to put more in her mouth, then the dad kept picking her up and tipping her upside down to make her laugh. She would invariably start to cry and motion for her mother. I saw this family later on the island and the little boy was screaming while the father gave him the classic 'twisty arm' (pull around the arm while slightly lifting kid off floor). He was saying 'this is not how a scout should behave!' Then his friend said to his son 'see, this is what happens when you're naughty'. At the same time, the first father gave his son a camera to take a photograph of the peacock as a kind of peace offering so the second father had to say 'I meant what happened before is what happens... Now go take a photo with Jake!'
My blood pressure did not drop or my mind ease until I was in the middle of the woods, when the trees enveloped me, when the moss from the trees blew cheeky breezes on my arms. My feet enjoyed spongy earth, pine cones, greasy foliage, grey pebbles and then, finally, a thin strip of light orange sand being covered and uncovered by the gently foaming sea. There is nothing as dramatic on Brownsea Island as the scenery one can find in Australia with far less effort. But it is a different process to be calmed by the safe simplicity and delicateness of nature (even the mountains in England host buttercups and happy horses), than to be humbled by its might and splendour. I breathed out.
After lunch, we headed to Durdle Door, Lulworth Cove. This is one of the most incredible parts of England I have seen. Perhaps not surprisingly, it is its magnificent scale that delights me. The grass on the vast hills is short and contented green, the cliffs are chalk, the water is the best water green-blue there is. I have swum giddily off this coast before. It is as though you could swim out forever, make a run for it, escape the land mass and your life for a bit. Couples who have not laughed nor playfully grabbed onto each other for a long time do. They help each other step back to their towels over the tough, fall-away stones. They moan in a way that says you are my best friend. All this splashy, splashy makes me turn to my boyfriend and laugh and put smooth (velvet, melted chocolate, silk, jelly-smooth) pebbles in a pattern on his face. He says he feels like a fish on the bottom of the sea. As we stair master up the cliff again to the car park I ruin the moment of present-mindedness by pointing out the painfully pretty flowers on the coastline and asking him whether they would make good wedding flowers or whether people would think they're not really wedding flowers. My few hours of bliss are over. It's time to get in the car and to begin getting tired and irritable again.