Saturday, July 11, 2009

A day out with Fred

An eventful day.
It dawned rather more summery than it has been since my arrival here, so I leaped from the white bed (an exaggeration), breakfasted largely, and set out in the company of Red Fred for thoroughly-thatched Godshill and my doctoral appointment. I should have known the day would turn out well, for I was so busy running my needle-nervous mouth off to the charming nurse that I didn’t even notice the dreaded thing happening!

Job two was to find petrol. Not as easy as it sounds ... petrol stations are as rare on Wight as ATMs. But I knew where there was one: at Shalfleet, where the lady last year gave me a terrible tale of woe about the supermarkets pinching all their business. I would go and patronise them: especially as they are right close to my favourite village of Newtown and the New Inn.
I sent Fred off via Brightstone, and –since it was so much sunnier than last year -- paused for a half-hour to take a stroll up to the Neolithic tumuli on top of Mottistone Downs. Last year there was nary a soul about: this year, the entire school-list of Sandown High School (Sports a Speciality) was pounding down the hill. A very pretty lass demanded to be photographed with me, and a very pretty lad in a yellow tutu (I lie not, look at the photo) also smiled upon me … goodness, they are a lively lot here. Why have I never been to Sandown?

Stop Press: I now discover that the whole joyous young bunch were on a cross-island walk for charity. They'd started at dawn way down near the Needles and were going strong through Mottistone. And here was me thinking that a yellow tutu was some kind of a national costume...

On down from Mottistone to Calbourne and to Shalfleet and its garage and … a big sign: NO FUEL! My good intentions foiled (and my petrol low) I trundled on to Newtown. I was not disappointed. It is a truly sweet place. And since last year, the little church has been beautifully restored, while the old houses opposite, which were being worryingly renovated, have turned out a treat. And my beloved Old Town Hall was looking grand.

Newtown is even prettier than before. I strolled through a couple of the National Trust walks (immaculate paths), until the petrol thing got to my head and I set of for Yarmouth in search of the liquid gold.
I didn’t find it, but what I did find was Ivy Cottage, where I am to spend Thursday and Friday nights. Naturally, I popped in, just to let Veronica and Brian know what’s going to hit them… and naturally I took a snap.

There’s only one trouble with Yarmouth that I can see so far: it was not made for cars. Getting through the town streets is a slow and stopping exercise: very largely because delivery trucks simply plonk themselves where they wish to be and block up the whole slim system until they are ready to depart. So you sit there, ronronning in first gear for 10 minutes, while Yarmouth stands still and awaits the pleasure of one truck. The only real parking is a huge municipal lot, where I shall have to leave Fred. It will cost me ten quid for the two days. Parking fees are an unkind Wightish failing. But, of course, there are none on the Downs, or in Niton.
On thence to the New Inn, and lunch. The New Inn (see last year) is delightful, its folk are grand, it’s the recipient of endless Best This and Best That awards and it deserves them. I had a light lunch in their ‘garden’ (actually a plank-board area enclosed by hedges) of ginger-beer shandy and black-pudding and smoked-cheese salad and was muchly content. If the New Inn doesn’t have the view the Spyglass Inn does, and if it uses lettuce (yawn!) in its salad rather than the delicious mesclun which Chale Green gives you, on the whole it still comes out on top for me amongst Wightish lunching-spots. Though this evening I’ve been given a few more tips to try…

Still in worried search of petrol I headed back towards Freshwater where I finally found a garage purveying the necessary stuff at one pound ten pence a litre. I didn’t ask, I just filled thirstily up, and headed back along the picturesque coastal Military Road toward my home downs. Imagine my disgust when I found the garage at Chale open, for once, and selling petrol at one pound nine!
I flopped into Hermitage Court Farm in time to catch the day’s action in the Tour de France. Yes, I know I wasn’t going to watch this year, but I have and – if you ignore the ‘usual suspects’ and pretend they aren’t there -- I have to say that (give or take the silly team time trial which has no place in an ‘individual’ race) its been the best Week One of a Tour I can remember since the famous Chiapucci year.
A splendid opening time trial (instead of the usual flimsy ‘prologue’), a couple of OK sprint stages with some new names in the results, and then the magic win of Thomas Voeckler when the sprinters miscalculated their coup, and today – oh! the best of all – Brice Feillu’s triumph in the first mountain stage.

The little Agritubel team, of which I’ve been a fan since day one, winning a big tour stage… great stuff! I know I’ll lose interest when the Astanasties start throwing their weight around, but for the moment I’m enjoying it.
I celebrated by a quick dash across the downs to the White Lion, where I lifted a couple of pints of Guinness to Mons Feillu, before trundling back up Bury Lane in a stiff breeze to home and a delicious meal of veggie lasagne…
And now… now I can pop into that famous bed with a feeling of a day when the world smiled…
Long may it keep on doing so..

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