17 May, 2007

there's no 'g' in Burgh Island

That's the first thing I learned upon approaching the Devon coast, looking for the "Sea Tractor" that would take us across the incoming tide to the Island. It's pronounced "Burr", I suppose sort of like "Edinburgh," Scotland. The real dummies like me start out pronouncing it "Edinburg," with a 'g', and then move onto the only slightly less dumb version, "Edinburrow." No, it's just "Burr Island."

But I'm skipping ahead. Having seen Avery off on her school trip, we hopped in the car and headed south. Well, south/southwest, through beautiful Wiltshire, where we stopped in a little town called Chilmark and had the requisite plate of Wiltshire ham and a "brace of eggs," very delicious. The ham is actually cured, instead of being smoked, and the flavor is very delicate and the perfect accompaniment to a plate of fried eggs. Get some, do, at the Black Dog pub in Chilmark.

Then through Somerset, which is just about the prettiest countryside you can imagine, the setting of one of my favorite mystery series by Janet Laurence. I must say, in an ignorant way it's hard to get really worked up about the depletion of our natural resources when you drive through hundreds of miles of seemingly endless landscapes, filled with sheep, cows, pigs, horses, as far as your eye can see. It does make me wonder why on earth we live in London, but then we have to admit we love it here, too. Yet another of life's aphorisms proved true: it's contrast that makes happiness. Right on through Devon, then, with its hills full of red cows. Not black and white, not brown, red. And all the miles of slightly drunken-looking right angles of hedgerow, so beautiful under the changeable grey-blue sky. Just as we got into Modbury, the little village that's the closest to the island, the sun came blazing out and we could put the top down on the car. Gorgeous!

We should have stopped in the little town of St. Anne's Chapel, as the hotel guide told us too, and phoned the hotel to get across the tide-swept expanse of Bigbury Bay between the mainland and the hotel island, because they were quite correct in saying mobile phone service was iffy (how lovely not to have a phone), but in the end it worked out just fine because as we were oohing and aahing over the view of the hotel from the other side, we saw the nutty "Sea Tractor" coming across and waved our arms at the driver. I ran down with our bags and the lovely guy (I wish I knew his name but I don't) went up in his Land Rover parked on our side of the water and showed John where to park, then they both came down and joined me on the Tractor. As you can see in the picture, it's a restored 1966 vehicle that reminds me of the thing they did space walks on: a sort of hayride wagon fitted with long spindly legs and enormous tyres, designed to drive right the way across the beach in two feet of water. Crazy, but a lot of fun. The Burgh Island Hotel staff ran out to let us into the hotel, which is like walking back into 1929. Every piece of furniture, work of art is a period piece, joined by lots of framed reviews of the hotel from 1929 to the present.

We dumped our bags in our room, called the "Cunard," (which felt just like the descriptions of ocean liner cabins I've read) and went on an exploring tour of the hotel first (a real billiard room!) and then the grounds. Rabbit warrens everywhere, and some glimpses of bunnies, until they saw us coming. It reminded me of the hours Avery and I spent in Scotland huddled outside rabbit doorways, waiting for a little face to peer out. I mentioned this to John and he said, "No way am I crouching on wet grass to wait for a rabbit." Well, that's why people have children, to have someone to do that with.

Enough tour guide from me today. I'm off for a mammoth grocery shop in preparation for our tired, dirty and no doubt starved child's return tomorrow. More on Devon presently!

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