Sunday, August 02, 2009

R & R

Home again after a week of rest and relaxation in Dorset. Our wonderful holiday house had no mobile phone reception, no internet connection - bliss for a week. I know I wouldn't want to live like that for ever but it did mean that work couldn't intrude on our evenings and only when we went out of the village quite a distance during the day did anyone have any chance to contact us, apart from the two close relatives who had the number of the payphone in the house.
It meant all the more time to spend seeing the world through the eyes of a 3 year old whose pleasure at watching the deer browsing in the field at the bottom of the garden was a joy in itself. Having breakfast looking out on a wildflower meadow with a pair of roe deer feeding, then an evening meal watching the swallows swooping and gliding to catch their evening meal - what more could we ask? With a Wendy House in the garden, and walk in wardrobes for hide & seek it was paradise for children as well. We even got to watch master thatchers at work on the house next door.
The choice of area had been made largely so that I could visit the Tank Museum at Bovington. Not my usual choice of holiday visit but in researching my family tree I'd discovered a great-uncle who'd served in the Tank Corps in the Great War. He was the only one of several brothers who'd served in the forces because the others were all miners and so were needed there. I'd never known that this person existed and nor had my cousin so I was intrigued to know what I could about his life. The Tank Museum staff had already helped me with a transcript of the war diary of the battalion in which he served. Now I wanted to see the kind of machine he'd been in and the life he'd led as a member of the Tank Corps. I found it interesting that part of the daily rations was 1/50 ounce of mustard - not what I'd have considered an essential to daily living. I presume it went with the 3/4lb of meat per day! I did find myself wondering just how much of the daily official ration they actually got when it was so hard to get supplies to the front line troops and perhaps at times hard to know where the front line was in all the chaos of a battle prior to our modern communications systems. Unexpectedly, I found that I could climb up and sit in just the model of tank he'd served in, and have explained to me what he'd have done and how cramped they were in there. Prior to being called up to the army he'd worked with horses in a livery stable. It must have been horrible for him to go into a noisy, oily, fume-filled, overcrowded tank and drive across the battlefield knowing that if his tank were hit all the spare ammunition that was under his feet would explode and blow him to kingdom come. I think I came close to understanding why he didn't want to talk much about his experience when he was discharged, why he wasn't quite part of the large but close-knit family back home in Murton. Those experiences must have changed him for ever, and he was the only one to have had them. He couldn't share the jokes, memories and worries of the miners and they couldn't share his memories.
On a lighter note we took the opportunity to visit Chesil beach in a wind so strong we struggled to stay upright, Lulworth cove where the rain spoiled our picnic but then the sun allowed us to enjoy one of the best icecreams ever, Dorchester where it rained so hard that the road was like a river and we waited almost an hour in a Tea Shop for a sandwich to be made, Weymouth for excellent fish and chips, and enjoyed a Dorset Cream Tea in the open air at a Farm shop. At least, those who like cream did - for the others it was warm Dorset apple cake with local ice cream. The diet starts tomorrow!

1 comment:

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