Goodbye Old Friend

I’ve been thinking about calling time on this blog for a while.  It has been fun and given me some great opportunities, but it was of the moment.  I am so thankful to all of you who have read, liked, commented, and got in touch over the years but life is changing, and things are moving on.  I don’t think you can ever lose the blogging bug and I will most likely re-incarnate in the future but it is time to wave goodbye to the Dorset Divorcee and watch her shimmy into the sunset.

The catalyst to pull the plug came yesterday when we lost one of the stars of the blog, our adored and beloved Harry.

Even though he was nearly 14 years old and we knew he was an old dog, we were still woefully unprepared for the end.  We knew he was slowing down, but he was still wagging his tail until the very end and the shock of the vet telling me that his time had come was like a blow to the stomach.

I think we thought he would go on forever.

We hoped he would go on forever.

At the moment it feels almost impossible to contemplate life without him.  Coming downstairs this morning expecting my usual rapturous greeting, being met instead with dead silence and a gaping space where his bed used to be. Walking to the office today in double time because he wasn’t there to sniff every single blade of grass on the way. Settling myself at my desk without a wet nose at my feet and his watchful gaze fixed on me.

We didn’t have Harry from a puppy.  He came to live with us when he was two years old and totally transformed our lives for the better.  He moved house with us five times, came on holiday with us, travelled everywhere – never happier then curled up on his bed in the back of the car.  He loved the beach and the sea, and the years we lived on the coast of the Isle of Wight were his golden time.

True enough, he had his foibles.  Strangers couldn’t stroke him for risk of being nipped.  He was needy and slightly neurotic and had a terrible habit of eating socks from the washing basket.  Whole socks!

But he was truly the best friend I ever had.  Loyal and faithful, a constant source of unconditional love.   I feel like my heart has broken in two.  More than two –  a thousand, no, a million tiny pieces.  Right now there is nowhere I can be that doesn’t hold a memory of him.

I know that helping him to his final sleep was the kindest thing, and I am so glad that I was there to hold his paw and look into his eyes right until the very end.

He was in so much pain and now he is at peace.

I hope he heard me at the end when I whispered thank you.  Thank you for coming into our lives and being the best, most fun, adorable, loving, wonderful addition to our family.  He has left a huge spaniel shaped hole that I don’t think will ever be filled.

Goodbye old friend.

We will always love you.

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Adventures at Camp Bestival Episode 4 – The Main Event: Saturday

We woke on Saturday to a strange sound.  The sound of no flapping canvas.  Not, thankfully, because our tent had blown away in the night, but because the gale force gusts had dropped and all was strangely still.

Until.

Pit pat, pit pat.

The theme of the day had begun, it was going to be a wet one.

Coffee was needed to get us firing on all cylinders and at the Dorset Farmers Market tent we found the Dorset Coffee Co. who served the best, and cheapest (that we found) coffee on site.  Even worth queuing in the rain to get it.

We had loads of stuff ticked on the programme to try and see on Saturday but the first one on the list was my choice alone, and alone I was as I stood in the crowd at the Castle Stage jumping up and down to Nellie the Elephant with Dick and Dom.

It does sound a bit odd as I type it in the cold light of day but we all have our guilty pleasures.

Dick and Dom were swiftly followed by the cast of West End Musical ‘School of Rock’ who gave us a brilliantly energetic taste of the show despite the rain which was still coming down steadily.

We spent a bit of time dodging in and out of the rain and, thanks to our tent being so close to the action, managed a quick afternoon kip to recharge our batteries.  Plenty of energy was needed for the night ahead and the evening festivities began with Holly Johnson.

This was REALLY exciting for me.  Frankie Goes to Hollywood were one of the first bands I saw live, 3rd April 1985 at The Brighton Centre, and I was a massive fan.  I was a bit worried that HJ would only play his newer, solo stuff, but we got most of the Frankie hits thank goodness.  He did seem a bit bewildered throughout the whole process, and unfortunately couldn’t give us Two Tribes due to time restrictions but as he was a childhood hero I can basically forgive him anything.

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We had wormed our way to the front of the Castle Stage for Holly Johnson and were staying firmly put for Madness.

If there is such a thing as a slick shambles then Madness were it.  They gave an artful impression of boyish larking around when, actually, they delivered a bang on professional set playing all the expected hits but still feeling fresh.  I was hoping to see a bit more Nutty Boy dancing from the dads in the crowd but as we were right at the front it could have all been going on behind me.  It was a feel good, upbeat, inclusive party – all sorts and all ages just having the best time.

Madness Collage

Madness said goodnight and as they cleared the stage we realised that actually, it was raining really hard.  The grass was disappearing and smooth rivers of mud were taking its place, thank God for wellies and not caring what you look like.

Final stop of the night was back in The Big Top for the Silent Disco.  I am probably the only person in the civilised world to have not experienced a silent disco before now, they seem to be de rigueur at every 18th/21st/50th/wedding reception.  However, as a silent disco virgin I was really looking forward to finding out what it was all about.

For those of you who have been living under the same rock as me and not SD’d before, it is basically a disco with no music playing through speakers only through wireless headphones worn by everyone in the room.  It’s brilliant because you are all dancing away like crazy but then if you stop for a moment, remove the headphones and look around, there is just a sea of mad dancing folk but no music.  A very surreal experience.  Camp Bestival upped the ante by making it a DJ dance off – there were two channels on the headphones and you could choose which DJ to listen to.  We had Soho Radio versus Dick and Dom, no prizes for guessing who I tuned in to!

We waded through the mud back to our tent and fell into a happy, danced out, rain soaked sleep, just keeping one ear open for Teen 2 as she crept back from the Bollywood tent at 2.45am.

Rain Collage

Rain did NOT stop play

Coming next: Adventures at Camp Bestival Episode 5 – The Final Chapter

 

Adventures at Camp Bestival Episode 3: The Main Event – Friday

Well, Thursday at Camp Bestival was a windy night.  I’m not talking breezy, or even gusty, but hold on to your tent flaps and pray for salvation.  The sound effects were worsened by our artfully placed bunting flapping like mad all night.  As soon as the sun rose Teen 2 was to be found outside the tent ripping off the flags with energy usually reserved for getting into an Oreo packet.

But no matter, it was Friday morning and the whole weekend was ahead of us.

As CB newbies it took us the best part of the morning to get the hang of the site.  A few laps gave us a good overview of the masses of stuff on offer and we shelled out the £10.00 for a weekend programme – no handy app available here unfortunately.

As we perused the programme over coffee I could feel a heat rising within me, was I having some sort of premature hot flush?  Was I coming down with a fever?  None of the above.

I was getting the FOMO.

There is SO MUCH to see and do at Camp Bestival that, if you are FOMO inclined control freak like myself, the pressure to race around like a loony trying to get to everything can threaten to take the pleasure out that whole thing.  As I felt the panic rising I remembered a blog I had read before we left that talked of exactly that and gave the excellent advice to let go of the idea of seeing it all and focus on enjoying the things you do get to.

Very wise words and a mantra that I had to keep repeating to myself over the weekend.

To satisfy my unstoppable need to for structure we went through the programme and ticked the things we wanted to see the most, agreeing that whatever else we could fit in as we drifted around was a bonus.

What delights did Friday give us?  We kicked off in the Big Top where You Tube teen sensations Max and Harvey sent the tweens crazy with a mix of covers and original material.  Leaving our own teens  there we scuttled to the Castle Stage for some rock chick nostalgia with T’Pau (or To Poo as one of the younger members of our group thought they were called).

You’ve got to love a rock chick, especially a rock chick of a certain age.  Carol Decker’s voice was as strong as it was 30 years ago and I had a great time belting out ‘China in Your Hand’ with the rest of them.

Early evening found us around the World’s Largest Glitter Ball eagerly awaiting Sara Cox Presents… Just Can’t Get Enough 80s. BBC Radio 2’s Cox played track after 80s track whipping us all into a frenzy of mad mum dancing.  It was like being catapulted back to the most brilliant school disco you ever went to but without the sneaky silk cut and the lovebites.  Definitely one of the best bits of the whole festival for me.

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For food that night we discovered The Feast Collective, a tent offering a huge variety of street food with big, communal tables, a bar and a resident DJ.  Spiced buttermilk chicken in a brioche bun – yum, thank you Butchies.

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The Feast Collective, home of Butchies Buttermilk Chicken

Friday’s main event was Mark Ronson.   I wasn’t sure what to expect, and when he ambled out all on his tod to do a DJ set I wondered if he would hold the crowd.  No worries there, he kept us all dancing with endless hits in quirky mixes, cutting tracks within a minute if the energy started to droop.  Nothing ground breaking but we danced so much that my toes went numb and that, surely, is the sign of a good night.

Mark Ronson

Teen 2 headed to the Bollywood Tent and I made for what became my favourite place at Camp Bestival, Caravanserai.  More of that later…

Sara Cox at Camp Bestival

One of the highlights of the weekend – Sara Cox’s 80’s disco.

Coming next: Adventures at Camp Bestival Episode 3 – The Main Event: Saturday

 

 

Adventures at Camp Bestival Episode 2 – Tent Up, Tune In, Chill Out

Last time, on Adventures at Camp Bestival…lists were made, cars were packed, sandwiches were eaten.  Now that is what I call a cliff hanger.

Today, dear readers, you find us in the Camping Plus car park which is exclusive to Camping Plus ticket holders and the nearest to the Camping Plus site.  Easy to find, a slight delay getting in due to some dodgy traffic lights but, all in all, pretty painless.

We unload all our stuff, ALL OUR LOADS AND LOADS OF REALLY HEAVY STUFF, onto the grass and look up to take in our surroundings.  We really do look up.  Up a big hill that stands between us and our pitch.  But, no matter! The CB team have thought of everything and there is a free tractor and trailer shuttle service continuously running up and down the hill.

Camp Bestival Rucksack

Yes, it is really quite heavy

Fortunately , we had procured a huge fishing trolley so with that, a smaller trolley and two reluctant teenage helpers we made it up and down the hill in three trips.  Yes, three trips.  Suddenly our extensive list of essentials didn’t seem quite so essential but you live and learn.

We passed through security, grabbed our wrist bands and hunted for our pitch.  The site is marked out in a grid of coloured zones and the alphabet, so it is pretty easy to find your booked space.  I’d opted for a place nearer the action which was, by default, further from the car park but the trade-off was a good one.  Now all we had to do was put up the tent.

This was going to be easy!  You’ll remember from Episode 1 that we had a very successful tent practice.

On that sunny, still, breeze free day.

In a very sheltered garden.

Fast forward to an exposed hilltop.

In 30 mph windy gusts.

Hmmm…

We spent forty minutes wrestling with fly sheets and ground sheets, snapping two tent poles as they got caught in the wind.  Helpfully, Teen 1 rolled around the grass in fits of laughter as we grappled with what was basically a massive parachute ready to carry us away into the atmosphere.  I could feel my camping bonhomie slipping away.

Lucky for us that Camp Bestival folk are a friendly bunch and, just as things felt desperate, the cavalry arrived.  Four extra bodies, one bearing a roll of duct tape for our pole casualties, and between us we got the tent up and secured.

From then on it was a short hop and a skip to fill the tent, string the bunting, light the fairy lights and head down to the Magic Meadow for some food.

Time to relax, let the weekend begin!

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Thursday night – clean, keen and ready for action.

Coming next: Adventures at Camp Bestival Episode 3 – The Main Event: Friday

Adventures at Camp Bestival Episode 1 – Before

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Camp Bestival is a big deal around here.  Taking place only 18 miles down the road at the beautiful Lulworth Castle we are super fortunate to have such a lovely festival right on our doorstep.  Commonly known as ‘Bestival’s Little Sister’ (Bestival being Rob da Bank’s multi award winning boutique music festival), Camp Bestival has a trophy cabinet all of her own having been awarded ‘Best Family Festival’ 2009, 2010, 2013 & 2014 by the UK Festival Awards. 

The clue is in the title here, it really is a family event from babies clad in ear defenders being wheeled around in trolleys to tweens and teens roaming free because it is totally safe for them to do so.  It’s is definitely not all about the kids though – there is loads going on for the rest of us and with something for everyone it makes the perfect recipe for family harmony.

Teen 2, who is 14, was desperate to go this year and with Teen 1 off on her South American travels we rounded up a friend each and booked weekend tickets with a Camping Plus upgrade to secure our pitch.

Buying the tickets in February it seemed a lifetime away but a couple of blinks later it was July and there was serious list making to be done.

As usual when needing a bit of advice, I turned to the blogosphere and was well rewarded with a mine of useful info from Camp Bestival regulars.   Who knew I needed to add bubbles and glow sticks to my packing list?  Or that I would feel naked without full glitter make up?

My partner in crime for the weekend (who was leaving her ever patient husband at home) and I decided that a pre-departure meet up was in order.  We spent a funny day in glorious sunshine practicing putting up our tent and finishing our lists – anti bac gel, cleansing wipes, gas stove and kettle, tent, wellies, silk pillow case

Wait – did you say silk pillow case?  You do know this is camping?

Camping or not, smooth skin and frizz free hair has to be preserved so I’m sorry, call me a Princess, but that silk pillow case is going in the bag.  End of.

Camp Bestival - Loading the Car

Eggs, crisps and a bag full of bunting. What more could we need?!

Two weeks later and we are packing the car.  Seats down, roof box on, pillowcase packed.  The weather forecast is a bit dodgy and at the last minute I swap a sun dress for a couple of hoodies and we’re off.  Our Camp Bestival Adventure awaits us.

Camp Bestival 2017 Picnic in the Car2

Very excited in the queue for the car park. Only one thing for it – time to eat the picnic.

Coming Next: Adventures at Camp Bestival Episode 2 – Tent Up, Tune In, Chill Out

What’s Your Life Anchor?

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Recently I’ve been feeling a bit adrift in my own life, a sort of vague searching for purpose type of feeling.  My default reaction to this sensation is to up sticks and re-locate which goes some way to explaining why we have lived in such a variety of places over the years.

But this time I must be thinking like a proper actual grown up (for once) as I have taken a step away from salacious property porn viewing on Rightmove and tried to identify exactly why I want to move.

Of course there is a large element of ‘greener grass’ syndrome, it is easy to think that everything will be better somewhere new.  The reality of this is summed up in a quote from my lovely friend Anna, “same shit, different view”.

Exactly.

I think it all comes down to having something to anchor you to a place.  It might be a family connection, a job, a partner, a lifelong ambition to live near the sea/city/countryside.

I chose Dorset five years ago because of the excellent state schools but as the teens grow older and move on even that tenuous link will be broken.

Which leaves me with…not much.  Dorset folk have proved a fairly tough nut to crack socially and I can take my work anywhere so no ties there.

Which leaves me a choice, to quell my fight or flight instinct and try to forge new reasons to stay, or to hit the Right move app and start the re-invention process all over again in a new place.

Common sense tells me to man up and do the former which is quite daunting as it involves lots of ‘putting yourself out there’ type activities.

The jury is still out so I will let you know what I decide but, in the meantime, what would consider to be your life anchors?  What keeps you happy and content where you are?

A Parallel Life

Have you seen the film Sliding Doors? It follows a character in parallel lives, the stories decided by one moment in time when Gwyneth Paltrow either does or doesn’t jump on a tube train.

Last weekend I had my own Sliding Doors moment. It was the teen’s birthday (sweet sixteen, more of that to follow) and she had chosen to have ten friends over for a birthday dinner party. I was head chef, the tween was maître d and the role of waiter was to be played by teen and tweens father. This was quite a big deal. Due to the geographical distance between us, a sighting of the lesser spotted ex-husband on our patch is quite rare, however, on this occasion the stars aligned and the teen was able to have her wish of having her father at the party – albeit in a waiter-ish sort of way.

We adopted our Upstairs Downstairs/Downton Abbey roles with alacrity. The party guests munched on smoked salmon blinis, roast chicken with dauphinoise potatoes, salted caramel profiteroles and birthday cake. They laughed, danced, sang and played games around the table. Meanwhile, on the other side of the green baize door the three of us chopped, stirred, sweated, washed up and grazed on leftovers whilst keeping an eye on the rugby on the kitchen TV.

It was amicable and comfortable and fun. It felt as if no time had passed and the years since the separation did not exist. It was how it should be, a complete family having a celebration of a special birthday. Somewhere between making the gravy and lighting the birthday candles I realized that for that one evening I was having a parallel life moment. This is how it would have been if divorce had not got in our way. This would have been our life had infidelity and poor communication kept their noses out and left us alone to navigate our marriage.

In the cold light of day I do realise that nothing is that clear cut. Our lives could have gone any number of ways, had we not failed at the hurdle we did it may have been another further down the line. But for that one evening I felt happy that we could genuinely re-create a happy family tableau for the teen. I felt cheated of the family life that I always assumed I would have. And, most of all, I felt furious for letting the whole situation make me feel so sad.

Even when you have completely moved on there are still little blips waiting in the wings to trip you up, especially where the children are involved. I guess that the life skill here is to recognise the blips for what they are, acknowledge them and float forwards. It’s not living in the past, it’s just a passing thought of ‘what if’.  A personal Sliding Doors moment, nothing more.

Millie Bday 16

The Birthday Girl