Here I am with two likely types discussing where to go on this gloriously sunny October morning. You can see that I’ve already clambered down from Corfe Castle with an apron full of handy twigs for a possible camp fire later on. It’s Apple Day today – something that I thought only existed as a fictional excuse for Jill to make even more fuss about on The Archers. But, no, it really exists. More of that later.
Yesterday, I went to Arles, via the Chapelle St Gabrielle. How so, you ask? Or maybe not. In truth, I was in the MRI unit at the hospital. And let me tell you, this is an extraordinarily well-functioning department. One enters the joint with a great deal of trepidation at the given time and, barely is the Kindle fired up, than they come to collect you. Some horrid things happen, all dispensed with great kindness, and they throw you back out the door at exactly the time they promised.
I was going to write a lengthy tract about this experience but, when searching for a suitable picture, I discovered that folk all over the world have recorded their personal accounts of MRI in great detail. Without exception, they appear to have done this with a degree of magnanimity so that others facing enclosure will know what to expect. The MRI unit is a place unlike other hospital departments: patients don’t talk to each other. In fact, watery eyes are deliberately turned in other directions to avoid discourse. Anxiety rules the day, largely I believe, because you can hear all the machines clunking away; plus the randomly detached voices of radiologists behind unseen screens asking ‘are you still alright?’
She said to me, ‘consider your breathing and think about another place you’d like to be’, which is when I travelled to Arles. I’d asked for classical music but was fearful they might impose something demanding like Flight of the Valkyries. No worries: soothing notes oversaw my journey down that sunflower-lined road in the company of an American professor who has never previously journeyed that way. Mr Russell, I can’t wait for the reality.
So where to go today in the real world of autumnal Dorset? I head for Bridport Market and the ride across the Ridgeway is truly wonderful and worth any disappointment at the end. I would like to walk the Ridgeway: with its absolute profusion of long barrows and round barrows and standing stones and landscapes, all seemingly positioned only for the risings and settings of equinoctial suns. A few too many hills possibly for these old hips.
Bridport’s a funny old place and one that should probably only be visited in November or on market day. November, because that’s when they hold the famous literary festival and market day because there’s little else to see. I was alerted to a Town Crier announcing Apple Day. He shouted so loudly that it was difficult to discern any information apart from the word ‘cider’ which he repeated incessantly. I made friends with a wired hair terrier called Ted. There is an abundance of dogs in Bridport.
The nicest, but most frustrating, thing about Bridport is the Town Hall, which is one of those places in which one discovers something that you feel you should have always known. The tourist information office is located on the ground floor of the Town Hall. Upstairs, they were holding a craft fair today so I paid a visit and passed some time talking with the (always) ladies who were displaying their wares. Then I looked up. The walls are covered in the most wonderful paintings by Fra Newbery, formerly of this parish. Until today, I had never heard of Fra Newbery and had never seen even the most mediocre copies of these fabulous paintings of life in nineteenth century Dorset. What an absolute treat for the eyes.
I accosted some elderly folk selling hand-made Christmas cards and asked them about the paintings. They knew little and were surprised I’d asked. Wouldn’t I like a pop-out Flight into Egypt depiction? No thanks – I’ve seen the Banksy version and it’s funnier. I travelled back down in Schindler’s lift – didn’t he have a list? – and demanded information from the tourist information people. They have every type of leaflet you could possibly want and naff all on what’s hanging on or off the walls upstairs.
Pffff. I purchased two lamb chops and a chump end from the local butcher and took myself off to Dorchester for an early lunch. By the way, all the pictures on this post, with the exception of the MRI scanner, were painted by Fra Newbery. And very nice they are too.
In case you’re not familiar, here’s Banksy’s version.