I promised myself when I moved back to the UK that I’d treat it as a destination. I wouldn’t let reality suck me in and I’d see as much of the country as possible. I’d refuse to get stuck in a rut, routine would not control me, I would remain as free as a bird. A bird with a lot of metal shoved through various parts of its face, but a bird nonetheless. Probably a seagull given my tendency to stand really really close to people while they eat, asking them if they’re gonna eat ALL of that before running off with their chips anyway. But I digress.
It was only when I got back when I remembered why I hardly saw much of the country during the 25 years I was there in the first place. Have you seen the fucking price of public transport here?? And the cost of running a car is prohibitively expensive. You’d need to sell a kidney just to afford road tax, and insurance would be a lung and maybe a cornea. It’s ridiculous. There’d be no way I could save enough to go somewhere pretty and hot for several months whilst seeing my home country as well so it’s taken this long to actually get my arse into gear to go on a road trip.
The mrs would be accompanying me on this little jaunt around the south west. We’d hired a car. Well, I say car. When we rocked up, the dude at Hertz advised us that he’d run out of the car we booked so we’d be upgraded two classes for free to a Nissan Note which had built-in sat nav, automatic lights, automatic wipers, cruise control, Eco mode whatever the fuck that is, automatic engine cut-out when you put the car into neutral, apply the handbrake and take your foot off the clutch at lights, a shit tonne of buttons on the steering wheel I’d never work out the function of and basically it’s not a car, it’s a fucking spaceship. I gingerly eased myself into the driver’s seat and tried not to touch anything until I decided what it did.
So. The first stop was Stonehenge in Wiltshire. We’d timed our trip for the summer solstice because twice a year, English Heritage allow controlled open access to the stones. From a distance Stonehenge instils a kind of, “is that it?!” feeling. You kinda feel like you’ve been cheated out of your quite steep entrance fee. It’s only when you’re in the middle of the circle whilst the Druids perform a sunset ritual as the crowd intones in unison that you get a real feeling of the power of the place. You look up at the stones, silhouetted against the sky which slowly changes colour as the sun sets.
It had already gotten quite busy by this point but everyone was friendly and happy and it was relatively easy to get to the centre of the circle. A lengthy process of gentle nudging and “Hey, do you mind if I please nip into that gap?” but compared to how it got later on, it was easy. As the night progressed it filled up. The centre of the circle became a solid, immovable mass of humans crowded round musicians and dancers. Outside of the circle, the ground was littered with people who’d taken up residence on blankets with picnics and guitars. There were hundreds, if not thousands of bodies here, the majority to enjoy the spirituality offered by the 5000 year old monument.
The aim here is to stay around through the night and watch the sunrise. We got through it with a few hours broken kip in the car before stumbling back to the stones to wait for sunrise. The Druids began again with a sunrise ritual, this time outside of the circle a few metres from the heelstone.
And here’s the thing about sunrise. It fucking takes forever, especially when your bladder has decided it no longer wants the caffeine related products you filled it with to help you stay awake. Watching the beginning of a new day is a beautiful thing but once the horizon has been glowing a stunning red for a while you start to think it’s stuck. It’s fucking stuck. It’s broken. There will be no sunrise, just this reddy-orange glow forever and a few thousand people upsetting their retinas and staring at it in anticipation.
Of course, eventually, it does come up. People had jumped the fence to sit in the meadow to the east to watch, mist beginning to form as the gradual heat evaporated the dew. We sloped off back to the car, so cold I thought my snot would freeze, but so content. You do park a good 15 minute walk (or 20 minute shuffle, depending on how long you’ve been awake) but the walk just seems longer and longer every time you do it and I firmly believe that the length of the walk is directly proportional to how badly you need to piss. But not as long as the queues for the toilets by the stones. They redefined long and it was too light to nip off to use daisies as target practice for my Whiz Freedom. Bugger. Anyways, I’d totally recommend this experience to anyone, especially those who’ve seen Stonehenge but were underwhelmed. Even if you only show up to witness the sun come up on the longest day of the year, it really is magical and this sunrise was worth the wait. Now all I needed to do was drive to Cornwall. If you’ll excuse me, I’ll be needing an intravenous caffeine drip and maybe my eyelids stapling to my forehead.
Things that seemed awesome and somehow spiritual the night before suddenly become intensely irritating when you’ve been stuck in a car park for an hour with very little sleep and seriously dude, if you blow that fucking shell one more time you’ll spend the rest of the day trying to remove fragments of it from your colon. It’s all well and good arriving at Stonehenge early enough to watch the sunset but it meant that we were as far away from the out-hole as possible and hundreds of vehicles were trying to leave at the same time. This resulted in gridlock. I resorted to that attractive half-sleep you do when you’re sat up, gob wide open enough to swallow a small cat, waking myself up occasionally with my own snoring snorts. Fortunately we were on the move again before I had time to drown in my own drool and it was onward to Cornwall with a few detours thrown in to allow rest and cream tea consumption.
So it turns out that Tarrant had never experienced the utter joy that is the humble cream tea. Tarrant, in my opinion, had never lived. We headed to a tiny little village in Devon called Cockington because I’d read somewhere once that it was pretty and the name made me snigger like a small child and I was pretty certain that a small Devon village would be able to provide cream teas. The weather was stunning. Time to release the feet. I don’t get my feet out too often in Brighton, there’s something about towns and cities that make me feel like I should wear closed shoes and hair product and clothes that haven’t started to rot with too much wear and minimal laundry. I much prefer flip flops. I like to feel the breeze through my toe hair. I also like to get my legs out. Oh summer, I love you, but it does mean I have to shave my legs on a semi regular basis. I also just won these awesome trousers from Clothing Arts which convert easily into shorts without subjecting surrounding areas to my butt crack. So, flesh exposed, we made our way to the tiny shack that currently passes as tourist information in Cockington.
Well it turns out that Cockington is more of a really fucking huge garden than a village. Yeah, there are houses and folks live in them but it’s basically a garden with a church and a pub and a craft centre and a cricket pitch. It’s gorgeous. We located a cafe… no… it’s not a cafe, it’s a tea room… at the top of a hill where Tarrant indulged in her first ever cream tea. She instantly became an addict. Seriously. I’m not even shitting you. She can’t get enough of this shit. You’ll probably find her one day, curled up in a corner of Brighton, begging for money for crack because she’s too ashamed to admit that she’s addicted to cream teas.
“Got any spare change for some crack, mate?”
“Fuck off! You’ll only go and spend it on cream teas!”
We stuffed our faceholes whilst watching a spot of cricket (could we BE any more English?) before going for a stroll around the village because strolling is the only form of movement possible in a place like Cockington. One simply does not walk. One strolls whilst commenting on the flora and the tree shaped like a giant penis. No, really, there’s a tree shaped like a giant penis. For a couple of dykes we really should be less impressed by this.
Then it was on to Buckfast. I fully intended to purchase some “Buckie”, the Buckfast tonic wine that the monks make but it was getting late and to be honest, I didn’t feel like appeasing the latent chav within. It’s a very pretty abbey though. Buckfast Abbey is 1000 years old. You tell me something is that old and I start thinking about dinosaurs and a T Rex nonchalantly chewing on a monk’s face before using a femur to pick its teeth. I have a very skewed concept of time. It’s like when you’re convinced Take That only released Pray a few years ago before someone has to gently remind you that it was actually closer to 20 years ago then you plunge into a midlife crisis and buy a Ferrari. Maybe not a Ferrari on your wage. Maybe a picture of a Ferrari. Or a bumper sticker for your 1998 Peugeot 205 saying, “My Other Car Is A Ferrari.”
Whatevs. Eventually we got to Acorn Camping & Glamping which would be where we’d be spending the next seven nights. We’d swung through Lyme Regis on the way to go fossil hunting but low tide was too far away so we’d contented ourselves with having a look around and purchasing a couple of local ales. Now usually I fucking hate ales, I think they taste like armpit, but these ales were brewed in a tiny, tiny brewery in Lyme Regis and they had a beer called Revenge which is also the name of a nightclub in Brighton that we frequent where I may have lost a few brain cells and a small portion of dignity. And anyway, if I’m going to be treating England like a destination I need to be trying the local brews. We pitched the tent, cooked up some dead pig, washed it down with some actually quite tasty Dorset brew then settled in for an early night. A holiday with me isn’t a holiday unless you get up obscenely early the next day.
Stonehenge, Wiltshire to Cornwall, England
Stayed at: Stonehenge itself, then at Acorn Camping & Glamping in Cornwall