Saturday, 20 September 2014

Stuck In The Muds at Dorset

3 days after my festival camping at Henley I was trotting my way down to Dorset for yet another round of camping but this time for 10 nights.

I bid the London concrete farewell and welcomed Dorset's finest straw fields, tractors, ale, ciders and all the mud they had to offer while blowing kisses to local farmers and Gypsie boys. 

The trip was a working holiday. I love to travel and visiting different parts of England has always been on my To-Do Lists.

 I was going to visit a different city,meet new people, gain an experience I would never have the opportune to gain at home , all the while working and earning money for it.

The job was perfect for me !

I became a bartender at The Great Dorset Steam Fair serving all kinds of ale and ciders to all kinds of people. 

After a day of bar-tending I could differentiate between those who came for the 100 types of ales and ciders from the ones who came solely for the engines. Some came for both and they were my favourite.

 I skilfully poured ales ranging from Standard,Mid-Premium and Premium from metal barrels into tankards that often came with owners that would put the rest of us to shame for just downing our pints. I blushed in embarrassment as I watched in admiration at their regimental drinking etiquette.  

But don't you worry your wellies off ! I've got you covered . Here's what they did,so just follow these exact steps and you'll fit right in the barn !

1.They inhaled their drink from the tankard, going cross eyed as they did so.
2. Sipped a mouthful.
3. Held it in their mouths for about a second.(Some would swish it about like mouthwash but it depends how southern you're trying to be!)
5. Swallowed it eyes closed.
6.Then smacked their lips together three times while licking off the last droplets of their ale before wiping their mouths and beards with the back of their hand.

Keep doing that until you're left with an empty pint and shout out -
'' Gi's a gurd big pint of ze Meekle Oleeva al ! ''

That translates to '' Give me a good big pint of the Michael Oliver ale ''. Which is what you would want to order when you come visit.

Michael Oliver was the founder of The Great Dorset Steam Fair. The fair has been showcasing vintage steam-engined trains,vehicles and other machinery since 1968.

Engineers,children,beer enthusiasts and adults flock the fields in bid to catch the steam engines in action and catch up with old friends.

When you're at the fair, it's like you've walked into a family party at a strangers home but you feel welcomed enough to out stay your welcome ! Everyone knows everyone, by one way or another. Its a community of people coming together to enjoy their love of the fair that had now become their tradition. As an outsider, I see it as a whole different culture with a history that dates back to Michael Oliver's very first opening of it.  The same people who came this year, came last year, and will come again next year. If you come often enough, you'll recognise the same faces every year.

 Melodramatic laughs and hushed voices are heard amongst ladies huddled together in knee high wellie boots and brown fanny packs . Occasionally turning around to check on their children playing around with others, whose mothers are doing the same. 
Now if this was London, they would be gossiping about the scandalous affairs of  London's socialites and discussing this seasons fashion faux pas . 

Luckily for you, I'm a bit nosy ! 
I slyly listened in to the Southern lady's conversations but the only dirty laundry they had to offer up were that of their kids and a recommendation of a bio-degradable detergent.

Everyone was polite and courteous. The chaps would even tip their cloth caps off to you in greeting, making you feel like Jane Austen. The first time a gentlemen did that to me, I thought he was going to be my Mr Darcy until I checked his I.D.
I was just as disappointed as he was when I had to reject his Bitter Shandy proposal. 

Little boys were handsomely dressed in their fathers image.Bundled up in chequered cloth caps,tweeds and braces. Little girls were prettily dressed in floral cotton tights,shiny boots, stripy skirts and frilly shirts with matching ribbons in their plaited hairs.

The fair was jammed packed with the likes of The Last Of The Summer Wine chaps. They were remarkably charming,witty and stomach achingly hilarious.

Photo courtesy of Engineer,Teacher and Racer extraordinaire ,Mitch.

Whilst being here I missed out on the London grumpy looks of grouchy old men, displeasing stutters from old women with poodles, and the hand attack of briefcases of businessmen who hurry pass in suits with mismatched ties. The people of Dorset were of an entirely diverse specimen, they sprung in their steps while their cheeks glowed red from bursts of ''jolly jokes''. Everyone I served were an absolute delight !

If you visited the fair, you would have found me at either the Bakers Arms, Michael Oliver ,Heritage and the Real Ale bars. 

I would have been the one gossiping with the wives of husbands I got drunk while ogling over the DJ and boy bands who performed. Carefully keeping an eye out for my manager as I gave you a cheeky cock of my head towards the tip jar after a few too many winks and smiles now and again. 

When I wasn't working I was busy chatting up the other bar staff , trying the ales and ciders for myself while impressing the pint professionals with my ale drinking etiquette.

I rather enjoyed the Honey Blonde ale and the Michael Oliver cider . 

Just a warning though,a pint and a half of that cider made my knees go wobbly and my mouth twist in Chinese tongues.

So drink it in moderation. 

A very considerate and wise bartender created a special alcoholic drink just for me,but since it's just you, I'll spill ! 

His name's Bartender Reece and he created the perfect concoction of a safe alcoholic drink that will still give you that 'kick' alcohol gives, but yet prevent you from thinking you're trespassing  through foreign immigration borders (or is that just me?).

I know it as the ''safe drink'' but between you and Bartender Reece it's 1/4 Thatchers Cider, 3/4 Lemonade and a splash of Black . Drink that and I promise you, you won't ever think you're about to board a plane to Thailand and no one will ever have to judge you for being a lightweight. You can drink gallons of that and you won't feel a thing. 

Your secret's safe with us !

Since I was going to be camping for more than a week it was vital to stock up on a few necessities so I and a few others went on an hour and half trek to the nearest town only stopping to take a few tourist pictures to send back to Mum. It was an hour and half walk away ! I don't think I've ever voluntarily tortured myself like that before. My P.E teacher in secondary school would be shocked speechless if he ever found out.  

Back at the camp site I and the other bartenders envied those who were 'camping' in the comforts of their caravans.( I don't think they rightly deserve the ''camper '' title.)

So as to save as much money as I could, I survived on cup noodles, cherry tomatoes,grapes, cheese, pita bread ,hommous and my new favourite sweets- MIDGET JEMS. Which Reece kindly bought for me and left on my pillow. Walking into my tent that night and finding a pack of my favourite sweets on my pillow,suddenly made me feel as if I was at 5 star hotel where they leave you little chocolates on your bed.
It was such a surprising treat !

When I couldn't stomach any more cup noodles, I'd pop into the staff cafe and bought food there.

The staff cafe served surprisingly delicious food. Considering they're cooking outdoors with limited facilities.I always left with a fully satisfied belly !

 Passing flocks of sheep, fields of horses and having to waddle my way through pebbles and stony grounds to get to my front door at home,I always thought of myself as a country girl . But after getting stuck in the mud and having to wear wellie boots the entire time, I realised I couldn't call myself that any longer.

 As you can tell, some of us city folk really wasn't prepared for this muddy foreign land .
But they cleverly left their Londoner ways and adopted the countryside mannerisms.
They left their Nike trainers protected by plastics bags and bought their first pair of wellies.
I couldn't have been more proud !

The mud was about 20 cm deep with some thick and hard, not posing as a problem to walk through.
But some were slushy and wet ,making you sink a little every time you stepped in . Tractors tried flattening the mud to make it safer to walk on which left the ground really sticky. It felt as if you were walking on Playdough or glue. 

I wasn't the only one here to camp and work. I came on a coach with about 30 others. Each from different parts of England and the world .Varying from different ages, backgrounds and stories of what brought them here.

Knowing we'll be having to camp and work together for 11 days ,we sat around each others tents introducing ourselves which was a bit like Big Brother when all the house mates met for the first time.

Throughout the 11 days everyone got to know each other more than the day before.

Having to camp with strangers for a long period of time in difficult living conditions was really daunting. Drama,tension,quarrels and gossiping started to arise as emotions were high on stress and homesickness. By the 3rd day some people wanted to go home. Some left on the 5th day.

Others stayed on regretting their decisions.

The rest however, happily stayed on and left with an unforgettable experience, a  memory to tell when they look back at their new found love and friendships that are promised to last a lifetime.

Photo courtesy of Canadian Genius and Beauty,Megan.

On one moonless night I and Bartender Chay decided to go on a Moonventure ( Moon Adventure). Now you all know how my adventures start, so i'll just shoot to the point. 
I witnessed two shooting stars ! ( 3 if you count the blur when I had a '' is it a bird or is it a plane?, '' superman-moment). 

We went for a walk in search of the moon because strangely enough we just couldn't see it !
On our last night, we found it. Or you can say it found us because I couldn't have thought of a better timing. It was a lovely end to our trip having gone through ''days of grief''' to celebrate with my one and only familiarity.

In any foreign place I find comfort in looking up at the moon. It's the biggest constant variable in any surrounding,no matter where I am.  Not being able to see it in Dorset was quite unsettling to me, considering I've always gazed up at it in awe since I was little. 

I danced my last night away to country music , blurry pictures, and my favourite drink.

The next day I woke up and counted my lucky stars for the trip I had, the people I met,the friends I've made and the tent mates who were like my family over the 11 days.

Right now I'm missing the late night talks with my tent mates.
We slept in that tent abiding by one rule-'' Mi casa su casa'' - '' What's mine is yours'' .
Sharing everything from food,clothes,creams,blankets,pillows,stories, talks of love and life , and memories we'll always treasure.

Thank you for having me, Dorset. I'll always remember the people I served,the friends I made and the time I had there. Every minute was spent in the company of the most kindest,caring and loving people I had the honour of meeting. It was a privilege to have worked with each and every bartender there. 

During the trip I'd learnt a lot about myself and this magnificent world I was once afraid of. Coming home with new friends and lessons learnt, was much more valuable than the money I had earned. 

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