On Wednesday evening I had popped over to Martock to see my friend Judy who is making me a new Henry costume. She was also renovating my hat as it was looking a bit tired. The evening was a perfect example of what winter can be - clear, bright and crisply cold. Lovely. I knew that in the morning I was up with the lark to drive down to Lymington to catch the ferry over to the Isle of Wight for a visit to St Francis Junior School in Ventnor, and a clear crisp morning would make the drive down to the New Forest port a delight. The alarm went off at "OH MY GOD IT'S EARLY" O'clock and I was horrified to look out the window and see heavy rain spattering against the pane and the loud moan of a strong wind. I think the word rhymes with "rugger".
The drive down, despite the weather and lots of patches of water gathering on the road, was remarkably easy. It was so nice to see the roads so clear. As I got down to Lymington I was rewarded with the site of a ferry waiting in the port. I popped in to pick up my ticket and was soon on board. My car was warm and inviting, and the thought of staggering up the stairs to the passenger lounge as the ferry tossed around on the wind blasted Solent didn't exactly make the heart beat any faster. So I simply snuggled down in my drivers seat and nodded off.
My journey from Yarmouth to Ventnor was via Freshwater and along the old military road. This was like something out of the Bible - the sky was black as Lemmy's leather jacket, the wind was hammering against the car and frequently jerking it to one side, and the rain was screaming in horizontally. My mood was lifted enormously when Aled Jones (the wonderful replacement for thirsty DJ Sharah (sic) Kennedy) announced that their celebrity "Birthday Wishes" for today, November 11th were going out to Andy Partridge, lead singer and guitarist with XTC! He even announced he was going to play an XTC track to celebrate! Now this would normally get me excited, but I know the BBC Radio playlist for XTC consists of "Making Plans For Nigel", "Senses Working Overtime", and usually something lamentably awful like "Generals and Majors" or "Science Friction". And then he played...wait for it... "The Mayor of Simpleton", one of my all time favourite XTC tracks, and suddenly that Bible black morning didn't seem quite so horrible!
St Francis School in Ventor is an odd place, honestly. It is a mixed Catholic and C of E School. I wondered if they had half the children down one end of the playground brandishing pictures of Pope Benedict XVI and waving Irish tricolours above their heads, whilst the other half marched around in bowler hats and orange sashes screaming about "NO SURRENDARRR!" But they didn't, it was a lovely place. I was warmly welcomed by Emily Ridett who I had previously seen at Haylands School in Ryde on a previous Vectis visit, and was soon set up in the hall. We had a great morning, lots of laughs and some really sparky smart children. We had a break at 11am to mark the two minute silence for Armistice Day. After a lovely lunch we were back in the hall quite early for some fun with the stocks and then a storming, noisy and memorable jousting tournament that went right to the wire. This time the Gents finally broke away and won the final. This now makes our score:
GENTLEMEN 8 - 7 LADIES
I packed up and was on my way, and was soon at Yarmouth, just as a ferry was coming into port. I thought I'd soon be on board and on my way. But we sat there, and sat there, and sat there. Occasionally a member of staff would walk down the gang plank, scratch their arse, puff on their fag and (probably) blow off, before wandering back on board again. After about 45 minutes we were finally let on board. Again I waited in the car, though my sleep was somewhat disturbed this time by various idiots on board leaving their car alarms on before going up to the passenger deck. As soon as the ferry hit open water outside the port, and the strong winds and waves hit us every single car alarm seemed to go off in unison. My how we laughed. Of course by the time I got back to the mainland it was about 4.30pm and of course the rush hour had started. It took me some time, to fight my way through the heavy traffic and the terrible weather, but I was finally back in Crewkerne. I treated myself to a Chinese meal and am even now, girding my loins for another long drive tomorrow up to Wales.