Here we are then, back in the old routine of photo-jaunting with mates (using that word in the loosest possible sense). Hims #1 and #2 this time.
Last week it was that him#2 suggests a little trip out somewhere, mentioning two possible locations. A few emails wing their way back and forth and eventually, Tuesday morning, we’re all on board him#2’s jalopy. Though we still hadn’t quite decided where we want to go. And him#2 now informs us that, of the two locations he’d mentioned, one was little more than a bunch of fields. And no café!
What? No café? No coffee? No nibbles? That’s out for a start then. So we settle on t’other location, which just happens to be Salcey Forest in Northants… a place him#2 had been chuntering on about revisiting for some little while. Hmm. Vague sense of a stitch-up occurring here somewhere. Typical of the sort of “mates” I have!
Ok then. Salcey Forest. That we’d all visited earlier in the year. And promised ourselves a second go at once the weather improved a bit. Cos it had been snowing on that occasion. Ah yes. The weather. I’ll
moan talk about that in a mo’.
The journey starts off mighty promising cos as we’re leaving Bedford our route takes us past a particular sculpture (just on the outskirts of the town) that I’ve been itching to photograph for absolutely ages. But somehow its never happened. Things have conspired against me (as they usually do in fact). Either wrong sort of weather, or lack of time, or even the simple lack of transportation.
Anyway, there’s me muttering to meself “There’s that swan sculpture again. I’m gonna have that one day” when we’re halted by some temporary traffic lights near the roundabout where the sculpture’s positioned. Instantly I start scrabbling around to get the camera out… just as the lights change to green! Just my sodding luck. And naturally a curse or two has to be uttered.
[Note to self: Always remember to have camera out ready when embarking on photo-jaunts. Taking photographs being the point of the exercise, it’s helped no end by being prepared!]
But him#2, in a rare display of real matiness, volunteers to swing the car around the roundabout again to give me another chance. And sure enough, poking camera out the car window I finally manage to get some shots of it. Well pleased I was, I must say.
The day’s clearly off to a good start.
Just a pity it didn’t last.
First hint that maybe things aren’t going to run quite as smoothly as could be desired is when him#2 gets a bit… er… “lost” so to speak in trying to get us to the Forest. “How many times has he been here before?”, I have to ask myself. Certainly more than him#1 and I have. Oh well. Guess I’m not the only one that’s an expert at getting lost.
That, and the suspicion of an occasional few spots of rain on the windscreen. Either that or somone’s sitting on the roof of the car and spitting down on it.
Typical though, isn’t it? All over the previous weekend we’d been experiencing a sort of mini heatwave. Blindingly bright sunshine and temperatures touching the 30s (C). Yet the very day we’re off out to take some pics in a lovely forest where all the greenery would filter the sunlight beautifully what does it do? Turns grey and tries to rain, that’s what! I blame him#1 of course. He’s prob’ly jinxed it.
Once we did finally arrive the first port of call just had to be the café. Of which we all had fond memories. Really nice couple of ladies behind the counter, super food, and a real friendly dog.
Um… no, basically. All the indications of a change of management or something. New faces behind the counter, food not quite up to the standard we’d been looking forward to… and no dog! Bloody hell! This doesn’t bode well.
Refreshments (if you could call them that) done with, calls of nature attended to, and we start our trek through the Forest itself… after first trying to decide which particular trail of the many on offer we should follow.
I’m not entirely certain who made the final decision. It definitely wasn’t me. But then, neither of my companions seemed particularly eager to
accept the blame claim responsibility either.
Not surprising really, considering we found ourselves trudging along a seemingly endless path. That apparently stretches for miles an’ miles (according to signs we pass, that conveniently don’t tell us where it stretches miles an’ miles to… or even from).
First hint that things are a bit adrift is when I chance to spot him#2 peering at the map. “Hmm”, thinks I, “we’re lost”.
However, a minor detail like being lost has never deterred us before. Let’s face it, we all have loads of experience at being lost. So we just trundle on regardless. Until we reach a sort of crossroads type place, that entails decisions having to be made. And responsibility accepted. And blame being dished out. And penalties maybe (like who buys the next round of coffees). Hmm. Tricky. How are we all going to worm our way out of this?
Somehow or other him#1 seems to have ended up with the map (prob’ly on account of our having lost a wee bit of confidence in him#2’s navigational skills) and sets about assiduously studying it whilst sitting on a handy bench-and-table type affair that happened to be nearby. Can’t say I found that very much more encouraging though when I noticed that he was studying the bloody thing upside down. This definitely doesn’t bode well.
We finally reached some sort of consensus and head off… toward the right. And reach a road. That’s good. That’s what the map suggested we might reach… if maps are to be believed. But this particular map apparently wasn’t. For the way him#1 and I were reading it, we needed to turn right at the road. But him#2 insists we need to turn left.
So there we stand, tossing it back and forth. Looking at the map. Arguing as to where we were. Looking at the map again (though it didn’t seem to change at all). All of us equally reluctant to make any sort of decision. And all of us equally incapable of making any sense of the map whatsoever. A good five, maybe ten, minutes we were there. Possibly longer. More consultations with the map. And none of us really agreeing where exactly we were on it.
We’d probably have quite happily carried on in that manner all day, at that precise spot… were it not for the fact that the thought of coffee was beginning to loom in our minds, and prodding us to make some sort of decision.
When, lo and behold, a gate on t’other side of road opens and some lady pokes her head around, saying “If you’re wanting to get back to the car park and café it’s that way”, or words to that effect.
So, what I want to know is, how long had she been loitering on the other side of that gate listening to our inane babblings? Visions entered my mind of her having a chair there, upon which she’d sit all day just waiting for the chance to be helpful to lost hikers. For there’d been a distinct hint of familiar repetition in her voice, as though she’d given that direction to so many in the past. Curious people, these forest folk.
Further visions entered my mind of her doing this as an occupation sort of thing. And each day writing a blog post about it… “Today there were another three idiots that were helplessly lost in the forest…” etc. So if anyone happens to come across a blog post like that, lemme know will you? Thankyou very much.
Finally then we arrive back at the café, entering therein for much-needed sustenance. But en route to counter him#1 and I get somewhat sidetracked by an ice cream cabinet. And spend absolutely ages rummaging amongst its contents for something appealing. Nothing really grabs our fancy though. We don’t want ice lollies. And as for the “ice creams” they do have, well, none of them are really quite the ticket.
With some disappointment at absence of proper ice cream we wind up at the counter… and as usual can’t decide what to have. Though that plate offering a toasted teacake with butter (real butter, not one of them ’orrible spread type greases) seems mighty tempting to me. Cos I really do like toasted tea cakes.
Then him#1 happens to point out, in his normal malicious fashion, that they also have apple pie… with either clotted cream or custard!
“Malicious” cos he knows damn well how much I like apple pie (with either cream or custard, I’m not fussy) and so once more I’m plunged into indecision.
Ultimately settling on the teacake however. Yes, after much consideration that’s definitely what I’ll have. Yep. Mind made up. No more faffing around. The teacake looks really inviting… I can almost taste it. So how come, when lady behind counter asks what I’d like and I request the toasted teacake (with butter, real butter) the words that actually come out of my mouth are “Apple pie and custard please”? Sometimes it seems this mouth of mine has a mind of its own. You wouldn’t believe some of the stuff its come out with in the past. I’ve been really shocked occasionally.
However, thus sorted we go and join him#2 who’s sitting outside.
And consume our goodies. And discuss how miffed we are about not having found anything desirable in the way of ice cream. Him#2, waiting until we’re replete, and couldn’t eat a single thing more, then happens to casually mention “By the way, there’s an ice cream parlour over there. Where they sell proper ice cream. In cones”. And apparently he knew that all along. Bastard!
This day was definitely not turning out at all well. And then it rained!
After having half-heartedly mooched around in the Forest for a little bit longer, getting rained on (or dripped on when sheltering under trees), and not really getting into the spirit of things at all, I come up with a plan. My first of the day! And being one of my plans, obviously it’s a very good one.
“Wot say”, sez I, “that we call it a day and head back to town? Dump ourselves in The Bear and have a few coffees and stuff”. And for once, we’re all in total, even eager, agreement. So that’s what we do. Start heading back.
And end up at The Bear. Of course.
[Edit 15.07.2010 – Mate’s version, scribed with unusually reasonable accuracy, but in which he quite unkindly over-emphasises the sad fact that I might be just a bit old, is here.]