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  • Dougie

(Not too) Far from the Madding Crowd

We are still in Hardy Country -- in a place where his best loved book collides with John Schlesinger's film. A day when 1874 (Thomas Hardy's novel) meets 1967 (Julie Christie's Bathsheba Everdene & Terence Stamp's Sergeant Frank Troy) meets 2022 (Spike Deane's birthday) at the Springhead public house in Sutton Poyntz.

Fifty-six years ago, Margaret (one of the Heron Close ladies with whom we're sharing lunch today) worked in the pub here. She served drinks to Julie Christie and other cast members. And on one of their days off from behind the bar Margaret and her colleagues were invited to spend time on set watching movie history be made. How many degrees of separation might that make between me and Thomas Hardy?

Happy birthday Spike.

The day began, however, with Spike's birthday Facetime call with her mother and father who live inland of Wyong on the central coast of New South Wales. Then cake from Betty's of Harrogate in north east England.

Spike's grandmother was mortified to learn that I knew nothing of the renowned Betty's bakery, tea room, institution of (now) national or even international acclaim. I apologised, scooped down my wedge of Yorkshire sponge cake and expressed my particular appreciation of the marzipan. That seemed to suffice as atonement for my ignorance.

After some further discussion with the ladies of Heron Close (plus the mandatory consultation with Mr. Google) we agreed that the ideal place for the birthday girl's lunch would be the pub -- the Springhead at Sutton Poyntz.

It is a gorgeous English village with a pub (obviously) and a spring that used to drive the mill (which still exists but no longer mills) and a book exchange inside a redundant telephone box and a closer view of the white horse (which is sandy beige rather than white) bearing the not-insane King George III across the slope of a Dorset hillside forever.

Spike -- a former library assistant -- could not resist sorting the books. Alphabetically, of course. And neatly.

After further debate we all agreed it would be 'do-able' for me to push the 1.6 miles to Sutton Poyntz and 1.6 miles back. Unlike a couple of days ago, Spike and I also agreed about the distance. Just over 5 kilometres.

The ladies of Heron Close (who would drive up the hill) expressed some doubt that me and my wheelchair would make it. But I assured them my power-assisted Alber E-motion wheels with lithium-ion batteries and 24 kilometres range would more than cope with the excursion.

There was another of Dougie's over-optimistic views of reality. It says 24 kilometres in the Alber power assistance manual, so it must be true. Or not. Following 14 hard-working kilometers up to, around and down from Sutton Poyntz my right wheel -- the side I favour most when pushing (for some reason) -- gave up the ghost on the last stretch back to the hotel. With 16% of battery power remaining my German made wheels withdrew their assistance with an efficient but insistent ... beep, beep, beep.

On the schmick new tarmac bicycle track by the bird sanctuary Spike ended her birthday pushing a happy but knackered old Scottish guy the final 800 metres to our less than average bed. But that was the end of the day, not its start.

Back in the bright morning sun we set off with justified keen anticipation. We passed thatched roof cottages and 'sleepy hollows', along quiet roads with no pavements to a pub by a Wessex spring; where the grass hides the name of the place that you're seeking. A day in the Dorset sun simply does not get better than this.

After lunch in the pub we viewed the white horse then made our way down the hill again to see the sea. This is our final day in Weymouth.

A swim was not on Spike's agenda on her birthday. But Spike would not be Spike without dipping her toes in the water ... the very, very, very cold water.

I did not say ... "don't say I never warned you." But I might have thought it.

Sometimes though, even I know when to keep my smart arse Scottish mouth shut tight.

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