Today I bumped into another former resident of sunny Surrey Road, SE15. He's a very friendly guy that I've met several times in pubs around Peckham. I didn't know he was selling his house, or that he often goes to stay in Lyme Regis, which is where I met him today. I did know that those things both apply to the parents of a nice young bloke who lived locally and worked with M in the pub, but I hadn't made the link - this man who came out of a beach hut and shouted my name is, in fact, the very same father of the young man who looks remarkably similar to him. It makes one feel rather daft to finally make such a very simple connection, but it was also further evidence that I was living a life of serious social ineptitude when I was a slave to my mortgage and the gods of binge drinking.
Anyway, I'm off in an hour or so to meet him in the pub. I've already ducked into the place, a cellar bar that acts as a brewery tap for the Dorset brewery Gyle 59, and it looks like one of the best I've been to on this tour so far. But I have in fact been to surprisingly few.
There was a youngsters' specialist beer bar in Southsea, providing a wonderful contrast over twenty something years as it was just around the corner from my best mate's college hovel (where ten art students failed to clean or take out the rubbish for so long that the next door neighbours called the environmental health inspectorate). This had good beer, but was seriously lacking cosiness and charm.
We have sought decent wifi in a number of places, many providing it but offering only those grassy beers fit for a Greene King. A special mention should be given to the Ilchester Arms in Abbotsbury, with the best web access we've found, and which made up for beery shortcomings with some great ciders - we are well into the west now, it appears.
The best pub we have been to so far didn't have any wifi on offering at all. The Pub With No Name is something of a misnomer, as it is also known as the White Horse, because that is its name. It doesn't have a sign, we noticed, but it can be easily found on the Internet or electronic map things by either signifier, somewhere between Alton and Petersfield in Hampshire.
M and I went there without the boys first, to attend the wedding party of some wonderful people, and get a chance to show off Mrs Ploppy Clickbait, as our uninvited children like to call the van. Without wanting to drag too many people away from the main proceedings for long, we Van Partied successfully with seven other guests at one point, which is surely the greatest accolade that could be paid to Hymer's designers of about fifteen years ago, especially when combined with the proud boast that we have managed to park it in a normal-size car space every single time for a whole month now.
Yes, the pub and its camping area were good enough to make us want to show our kids, but we probably wouldn't have found a reason to return there so soon if it were not for the total excellence of Reliance Motorhome Services just outside Chichester, who were the only people who seemed happy to replace our lost window. As it was, we could go back to this pub that has all of the magic of an inn from a Tolkien journey, despite not seeming to be on the road to anywhere much.
Edward Thomas's poem Up In The Wind, written about this same pub over a hundred years ago, seems to be mostly about the fact that it is in the middle of bloody nowhere. I loved it, and I can't wait to find more like it.
Alright, so it is also the best Swannery we have been to. Okay, so it is probably, in fact, the best Swannery in the world, because, well, it's the only one. And with good reason, because, after all, what in the name of Gideon the Long-Necked Duck is the point of a swannery? To raise swans, I hear you honk, but why?
I Googled 'is it illegal to eat swan' and got the usual levels of bullshit expertise - quite a few people seem to want to tell the world that 'you can't eat a swan because they all belong to the queen and eating them is still a treasonable offence and you can still be hanged for it' and so on. And then the next-level Swan Law geeks come in and say 'actually the queen doesn't own all swans it's just the mute swans in the upper reaches of the Thames between Berkshire and Twatshire blah blah blah'. And about halfway down the page some chap said his dad ran a swan over once and he thought 'waste not, want not' and 'the queen's not going to want this one anymore' so he plucked it and gutted it and roasted it... and it tasted like shit.
So if they are not for eating, are they any good to look at? We paid our money and we went in. The boys had some fun with the pedal go-karts and the maze (that you only really appreciate the swan-shaped-ness of when you cheat and use the satellite pic on your maps app to find your way out) but were interested in the swans themselves for a couple of minutes at the most. Each swan is very similar indeed to the previous and the following swan, you see.
But it is the use to which this enormous tract of land on the Jurassic Coast has been put for a great many years, and who am I to question it? Just because the man who cleans the toilets (which were excellent) alongside the car park (which was the nicest we've spent the night in so far) was good enough to tell us that we shouldn't really sleep overnight on this land (that belongs to one of the richest landowners in Britain)? Or because I read a bit of Marx at college when I absolutely had to? Or because I took some acid in the Lake District when I was a teenager and totally lost all understanding of the concept of private property for several hours? Or because I've got some money to do this thing we are doing because I've just sold our house?
It was the best of swanneries. It was the worst of swanneries.