Notes from a road trip: part seven

Shower facilities: 7/10 – extra points for the parrot
Self-timer photos taken: 0 – but this one taken by CC’s uncle should count right?7035_325239615256_581720256_9275543_8026533_n

The Story: It was with great sadness that we set out from Cerne Abbas. The cloud we were camping in had still not lifted, but our spirits were undampened. We drove to Southampton to have lunch with CC’s uncle – butternut squash and chilli soup, followed by ham, cheese and tomato sandwiches, coffee and carrot cake. Yum.

We walked it off in now glorious autumn sunshine in the grounds of Royal Victoria Park next to Southampton Water, watching the ferries and freighters leave the harbour, and looked at the graves of soldiers of all nationalities who had died at the military hospital here from the Boer War, and both World Wars. It was a very peaceful afternoon.

Where would we camp for our last night? We drove towards Goodwood, reasoning that there were bound to be campsites in the South Downs – after all, that would be our fourth National Park of the week and the others hadn’t failed us. So we drove. And drove. And drove. And it got darker and darker and darker. But no campsites.

Eventually we pulled up at a pub called the Anglesey Arms at Halnaker and asked for suggestions.
‘You can park on the field out the back here for £5’. It was a deal. We settled ourselves in and then ordered food – I had Rabbit Pie with mashed potatoes and green veg and it was delightful, with no bones and lots of flavour – and earwigged the conversation. We were in a proper local pub, where the staff behind the bar regularly seemed to help themselves to a beer to keep the conversation flowing, and people came and sat with us for a chat for a while as the night rolled on.

Robbie the chef came and joined us, told me how to make the Rabbit Pie and his personal method for pastry and then offered us the use of the shower in his little attic flat the next morning. We gratefully accepted the offer.

His attic flat had all the promise of being really stylish, but was clearly lived in by a man. It’s the only way I can describe it – it had a bohemian, higgledy piggledy, disorderly thing going on that instead of looking like rural cottage chic just seemed a bit ramshackle. But the shower was amazing, and accompanied by the whistlings, laughter and chatter of his parrot. It could imitate several different alarm sounds and whistle the McDonalds theme music…

As I came out of the back door of the pub, Robbie and one of his chefs were sitting at a picnic table outside drinking coffee. On a tray was a cafetiere of coffee, a porcelain jug of milk and two cups. ‘I’ve made you some early morning coffee to have with your breakfast.’ For £5 we were being shown ridiculous amounts of hospitality and kindness.

And as we drove back to Brighton to reluctantly return Kermit to his rightful owner, I couldn’t help but think about all the acts of generosity and kindness and hospitality and warmth and welcome we had been shown on our little tour of the south.

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