Sunday, January 11, 2015

Fresh Fish and Blustery Boards by the Sea

Mum and I had some wonderfully lazy days, just spent chatting or ambling around the local towns and villages but by New Years Day I was getting decidedly cranky because I had not yet had my beloved fish 'n' chips. I'd had a few phenomenal breakfasts featuring the great British back bacon but I now had to have the fish. And so despite it being a blustery, dank and gloomy day, we drove to Mudeford, a tiny fishing village where fresh fish is caught daily.
The last time I had been here was with Mum and Greg and our dying father. Dad had wanted to have one last pub crawl as a family and had also wanted to smoke a last few cigarettes with his pints; he had given up smoking for some time previous to this. Although we'd all felt the despairing gravity of the day and had needed to occasionally turn to hide a falling tear, we actually managed some spontaneous laughs and jokes, reminiscent of happier days. The day had been fun and we were lucky to occasionally forget the wrenching solemnity of the reason why we were all there.
Mum and I didn't bring up that day. We were there to create our own memories and we ended up having a cheerful time enjoying the warmth of the open fire in the tiny pub, chatting with others as we all shared a table and each ate a plate heaped with home made chips and a large fried cod on top. I was in heaven. I'd waited 5 years to eat this favorite meal of the English and it was delicious. Not greasy or dried up, it was exquisitely fresh and tender, the batter crisp and crunchy, the cod meat pristine white chunks that melted in my mouth. And to wash it down with a pint of Ringwood best bitter, served at the proper temperature was divine. All of us at our table were impressed with our repast, and eagerly watched as other plates of cod and chips sail past in a waiter's hand towards the delighted faces of the recipients. I could have sat there all afternoon but Mum wanted me to see Avon Beach and I did want to see the sea.
Not a sign you'd see too often but we thought it was fab.
Outside the starlings and sea gulls swooped on the winds over the sea wall or snuggled down on the lobster and crab pots and fish nets. It was freezing cold and we didn't want to be out too much in the winds.
People standing around a fire pit as they waited for a ferry, and an old fishing boat leaning against crab pots.
The tide was out but coming in quickly and some intrepid crabbers held string and nets over the railings. They had caught some crabs too which amazed me but told me they would be released from their bucket before they left.
Mum was determined that I see Avon Beach and marched forth past the beach huts, locked up tightly for the winter. The waves weren't particularly high but the wind was relentlessly blasting up and down the sands and we saw large vans were turning up at the parking lots. the doors on these opening quickly as guys, (not a single female to be seen), jumped out and changed into wetsuits or drysuits and then dashed down the sand to plunge into the water with their sailboards. There were a couple of kite surfers too but these didn't stay long.
These nutters got down to business immediately, paddling out and then turning around to surf back to the beach. I asked one of them how they all knew when the best surf times were as they all appeared at about the same time. Apparently instead of working like the rest of us, they sit and monitor a website called, and as soon as the conditions for surfing look ideal, they all drive down here.
I saw a lot of bright red hands and feet and couldn't resist asking one of the men if he was cold, while pointing to his scarlet feet. "Nah!" he bleated out, shaking his head adamantly at the same time. "You're lying!" I retorted with a grin. He laughed and shrugged, obviously not wanting to impair his manly image. Mum had headed for shelter inside a nearby souvenir shop, but before I joined her I wanted to take a quick walk up and down the sand and study these mad men. I did note that they only made about 2 or 3 runs before deciding to stop. It wasn't too long before they had all dragged their sail boards back onto the beach and were packing up. Obviously it was a little cold, even for them, but I couldn't blame them for not wanting chilblains. When Mum and I left the shop to walk back to the car, nearly all of them had disappeared.
Except for this dude.

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