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  • Dougie

Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside ...

Updated: Jun 3, 2022

Sometimes the simplest delights of a long holiday are found in the most unexpected places. This morning that turned out to be adjacent to the A3155 (Preston Road) between our less than mediocre hotel on the fringe of Weymouth town and Overcombe Corner Public Toilets (they're on Google Maps) across the road from the Oasis Café (which is not bad).

I was on a road that leads to a former Pontin's 'Resort' on a hill where we stayed in 2016. I dined on Penne with a cream sauce on the night we arrived. Next day I was as unwell as the proverbial ... elephant with intestinal meltdown. Am I surprised they've gone out of business since then?

No I am not. Not on your proverbial Nellie.

The A3155 is not the romantic Silk Road travelled by Marco Polo. Nor does it carry the baby boomer cache of Route 66. It's not the road to Hell (paved by all our good intentions).

It's just a busy wee road from the vast Haven Weymouth Bay Holiday Park where what the British call "Static Caravans" crowd together (at the foot of Jordan's Hill on which the ruins of a Roman temple sit) to the King's Statue at the beginning of the Esplanade. The king in question was George III; the one they made the film about (The Madness of King George starring Nigel Hawthorne and Helen Mirren).

Turns out he wasn't actually insane. And he sort of kicked off the Weymouth tourist trade.

But that's a different story.

Anyway -- the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has established a bird sanctuary at the Lodmoor inland reedbed, saltmarsh and wet grassland that sits behind the giant protective sea wall that was built in 1996 - 1997. The sea wall was officially opened by the second son of Her Majesty The Queen whose name you're not allowed to mention in polite society any more (like Voldemort).

You know the one I mean. He can remember off the top of his head the exact day he took his two -- actual -- princess daughters to a Pizza Hut (of all the unlikely Royal places). But he can't remember ever standing with his arm around the seventeen year old girl he was with in an -- actual -- non-princess photograph. That second son.

Anyway --- our less than average hotel (but nice staff) is on the Weymouth side of the bird sanctuary. Spike's grandmother's apartment is farther along the A3155 (Preston Road) on the other side of the bird sanctuary. And there's a schmick new tarmac bicycle track that runs along the coastal edge of the bird sanctuary between the hotel and grannie's place.

I can push along the bicycle track. Easy-Peazy. Sort of.

Spike, however, sped on ahead of me because:

  1. It's Spike's grannie and Spike was keen to see her after six years.

  2. We had a few days washing to put through the machine.

  3. I am much, much, much, much slower than Spike. Everywhere. All the time.

I said I wouldn't be long. It wasn't too far. "Off you go," I said.

So Spike did.

I think it's a mile or "maybe a bit more." That is why I was a wee bit puggled (a Scottish word that no one in England understands) and panting when I arrived at the 3rd floor apartment.

Spike begs to differ. She checked on Google Maps before we set out.

Spike says the Google Maps line of wee blue dots says it's 0.8 kilometre (which we both know is not -- "a mile and maybe a bit more" which would be at least 1.7 kilometres).

I say, "google distances aren't always accurate."

Spike and her grannie snort like highly amused wee piglets. Then Spike's grannie asks if I would like a cup of tea?

And I say, "yes please."

While waiting for the kettle to boil Spike said she had been on the verge of coming out to look for me. I had arrived over forty minutes after Spike -- and by now I had conceded it was less than a kilometre, not more than a mile. Spike was beginning to think I had fallen from my chair, "or something worse."

I have no idea what "something worse" might have been. Stopping off for pasta, maybe, at the defunct hotel on the hill. Fawlty Towers without the charm of Basil.

I explained I had been delayed by the 0.8 kilometre border of native plants that the RSPB bird sanctuary had returned to the landward side of the A3155 (Preston Road). It was magical -- by which I mean it was natural -- in a way it probably hadn't been since before the not-mad King George III created the Weymouth tourist industry, just by coming here for fresh sea air.

It was a tiny strip of simple, old-fashioned uncultivated beauty by the side of a busy road in a small coastal town. Native plants, grasses, creatures (bumble bees, giant caterpillars, snails hanging on to single stalks of grass) filled the narrow barrier between the road and wetlands on the unseen other side. Herons stood like statues in the reedbeds looking out for wayward English eels. Noisy Chiffchaffs warbled away to their hearts content. There was a Marsh harrier. Hunting.

I was forty minutes late, I explained, because it felt like I was nine or ten years old again. I was back on one of our father's whacky family summer holidays. Five of us in an ancient four berth caravan -- the only one -- in the corner of some sodden random field of a farmer friend somewhere in the depths of Kirkcudbrightshire or other part of Galloway in south west Scotland. Wandering alone down country lanes with high hedgerows and drystane dykes; bright wee flowers, snails and bees and, over the hedges, great big fat smelly cows.

That's why I was longer than anticipated.

With my clumsy, paralysed fingers, sitting in my bothersome wheelchair, bending over as far as I could without falling out -- and using a Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ (whatever the effen '+' is meant to mean) -- I wanted to capture memories and feelings from my long-abandoned past using a mobile phone with three -- three fucking lenses -- and more computing capability than the space ship that took Neil Armstrong to the moon.

That's where I was. Off being a stupid wee boy again.

And two days later -- from the panoramic view of the saltmarsh, wetland RSPB bird sanctuary through the big window in Spike's grannie's third floor apartment -- a wee herd of great big fat smelly cows sauntered into view.

Twenty-three of them.

I counted their number because deep down inside where no one gets to go -- I am a nine years old boy, as happy as a ... boy aged nine, on holiday with his mum and dad and two brothers -- together, safe, happy -- in a wee caravan in a big field in a place to which none of us can ever return.

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