Day 117: Bournemouth to Wight

‘It can feel hard to escape…’ – the merits and de-merits of island life, Yarmouth.

We awake in Ricardo’s room in Bournemouth. As couchsurfing places go, it’s a little cosy, but after two days crammed into a one-person tent with my sister, the floor-space is vast and luxurious. You can even stretch your arms out, and turn over! Life in a tent has few perks, as one can imagine.

Last night we’d stayed up til really late, all of us talking, and the next morning we all sleep over our alarms. Ricardo flies out at ten am to start work on a regular Sunday Lunch at the carehome. He had a very funny take on what he saw as the typically English narrow food tastes of the residents (who are, all things considered, a mixture of ages and backgrounds). When he started work, he was outraged at the unhealthy and unimaginative processed slop that was served with punctual frequency. Each day, the same dish. So with the passion of a modern-day missionary (cue Jamie Oliver…?) he devised a new menu, filled with healthy meals, fresh ingredients and inventive combinations. Lo, the residents complained heartily about the unusual nature of the food. Of the new dishes, those that received approval happened to be either heavily fried or full of cheese. In the end, our crestfallen chef abandoned his campaign to reform the palates of the punters, and of England more broadly. ‘How can people eat roast dinners all year round?’, he asked us. My sister and I just looked at each other blankly.

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Day 116: Sark to Bournemouth

‘They’re always taking the piss’ – Englishness, in sum, from a Portuguese view, Bournemouth.

Those distant eruptions of lightning during the night flashed over into a night of restless dreaming, but their promise of storms has, for now, been unheeded by Sark. Topping-and-tailing with my sister, as a kind older brother I’ve allowed her the roomier half whilst I’ve slept at the foot where rain condenses and falls inside the tent. I feel the patter of some early morning drizzle drip against my head, waking me a while to pull a paw over my face and continue dozing. By the time we wake it’s dry again, though a thick mist floats over the surrounding fields with an alarmingly swift motion, rapidly obscuring nearby hedgerows, adding to the eeriness of this strange and most unusual of islands.

We surface and venture around the small, unoccupied campsite. Those two half-built houses still stand unoccupied and seemingly abandoned. A lady appears on a bicycle and disappears down a lane, then returns twenty minutes later and invites us into her house. It’s not as cordial as it sounds. We’re paying after all. The transition from bed to tent is severe enough without putting in the chaos of sleeping in dark forests alive with the whoops and whitters of a hundred different kinds of creature. It’s not for the faint of heart. In we head, to pay seventeen Guernsey notes for our stay, and in the process, discover a little more about Sark.

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