Our day began with breakfast, followed by the task of cleaning numerous bowel evacuations from various birds off the roof of the car. "A charming way to start your day", you might think, but you have to bear in mind one thing - we were staying at the Hermitage Bed and Breakfast in Totland, Isle of Wight.
David and Jane Blake's establishment is an absolute peach of a find. In fact, to refer to it as their establishment is doing them a disservice. What I should really say is that it is their home. And for 5 nights it felt like ours too.
David and Jane really took care of us. During our stay, they gave us directions, reccommended some great places to eat, attended to my fickle dietary requirements (aga-baked Quorn sausages with brown sauce, anyone?), loaned me a fascinating book of Emily Tennyson's Farringford Journal and provided us with masses of information about places to visit. All that and David power-washed all the bird shit off our car. Amazingly, after all this, Jane still said that she enjoyed having us!
The real testimonial to their diligent care comes from a women we met over breakfast who told us she has been coming to stay at The Hermitage two to three times a year for over two decades.
My Grandmother's 1929 journal concludes with her personal poetic tribute to The Ingersley Hotel, Shanklin (no longer standing), home for two weeks for her and 32 other Tottenham schoolgirls:
To Ingersley, To Ingersley
Past wood and hill and stream and lea
We went a merry thirty-three
To Ingersley, To Ingersley.
At Ingersley, At Ingersley
Around us fern and leafy tree
We looked out over Down and sea
At Ingersley, At Ingersley.
From Ingersley, From Ingersley
We travelled forth enquiringly
The Island’s richest gems to see
From Ingersley, From Ingersley,
Of Ingersley, Of Ingersley
How ever old we grow to be
Our hearts will hold dear memory
Of Ingersley, Of Ingersley.
Dear Ingersley, Dear Ingersley
We shall always love to think of thee
Where we worked and played so happily
Dear Ingersley, Dear Ingersley.
From Ingersley, From Ingersley
We shall start for home regretfully
And hope again one day to see
Our friends we made at Ingersley.
Oh! Ingersley, Oh! Ingersley
St Paul’s will often think of thee
And work will come more pleasantly
For having been at Ingersley.
Poetry is not my forte so I'll pay this tribute. If you are inspired to go to the Isle of Wight, don't bother unless you can get yourself booked into The Hermitage. The Isle of Wight is a great place to go but your experience will be substantially elevated if you let David and Jane look after you. Interested? Go to www.hermitagebnb.com for everything you need to know.
We made a brief diversion on the way home. We went to Popham to have lunch at Heston Blumanthal's revamped and re-launched flagship Little Chef. Vegtable pie, fries and salad. Impressive, actually, The toilets had piped music played into the toilet cubicles when you use them. My visit delivered me a slice of the seventies in the form of Lieutenant Pigeon's 'Mouldy Old Dough'!
And the rest of the journey home was a breeze.
That's about that then. The strange account of a twelve year old Grandmother and her forty six year-old Grandson. A trip to the Isle of Wight and an attempt at time travel. A childhood scrapbook of a child's adventure in 1929 and the comforting thought that, as we walked in the footsteps of a child eighty years ago, on a small island just of mainland England in 2009, very little has changed. Still, upon realising that 1929 was the year the world was caught in the murderous grip of a major Influenza Epidemic and the year millions of dollars was wiped off the world slock markets as the Wall Street Crash sparked a global recession, maybe nothing changes.
As always, it is a privilege to be with Jean. No one has ever quite got the hang of me as she has. We took this trip together, the three of us, Jean and me and my Grandmother.
One final message from the past. Written in her best handwriting at the back of her journal, Doris Mankerts recorded the 'Rules for Conduct' for the holidaying girls:
Every girl is to be ladylike, refined, quiet, calm, well-mannered and honourable.
It is impolite to be late for meal, lessons or play.
Bedrooms are to sleep in. Nice girls go quietly to bed.
A well-bred girl can always be detected here.
I am resolved:
Not to damage beauty-spots
Not to forget I am not the only one of a party.
To enjoy myself but not to annoy others.