the prelude in soho. five years later.

My great friend Sam just came for a speedy two-day visit last weekend, after us not seeing each other for two long years. This long gap I am mostly responsible for, I was away a lot, my seven-month stint in Mexico being the main culprit but also her very fine and beautiful American bully, Tiger, had constantly been getting sick. So between me and expensive vet bills, we couldn’t find a way to catch up. However, Sam suddenly found a niche and called me with the good news shouting ‘This is ridiculous what are you doing next Sunday? If you’re free I’ll come to London for my birthday!’ and swooped down for a day and a half just to come to see her old pal.

The first afternoon and evening we got very drunk and didn’t do any of the things I said we would, including my organic soap making and painting and proactive shit we normally do. We didn’t even catch up about the last trip we had made together in this country which I’d wanted to chat with her about as we went around this time of the year in the bitter cold. I wanted her to fill in the gaps of this bizarre trip that we suddenly went on for her birthday years ago.

Weymouth beach and its gentler ambience even if a little nippy

We just ended up talking crap and misled each other as to how many bottles of prosecco we had actually had. We rambled on about her coming over when I get the house in Bulgaria, and how we would grow organic veggies and make art. I would make a kiln in the garden and go back to my ceramic sculpture again, and Tiger the dog would guard us as she would take well deserved time out of work. We would learn just enough Bulgarian to be very popular as the two strong English women revamping an old broken farmhouse with our bare hands.

Film location for ‘French Lieutenants’ Woman’

On and on we went, tediously pissed and starting to slur until I saw through a haze of alcohol that Sam needed shepherding to safety, and I sent her moaning and complaining to bed.

Nippy out but still beautiful weather.

Clearly, this meant the next day we did nothing. We just sat and watched TV. Dull eyed and very fragile we huddled on the sofa and gazed at survival programmes. What you can build just with a machete and bamboo is truly amazing. Also, we learnt how to make fire, and how to lay traps and murder hapless animals in various rainforests across Asia. It was a lot more visceral than our Amazon women imaginings the previous night. Real survival as opposed to growing a few potatoes and having chickens ( just for the egg’s mind) and making preserves from the harvest of the fruit trees.

Before the storm



What we vaguely remember and with the few pics I could find. The weather in Weymouth on the first day had been relatively balmy, the second day at the fossil beach the weather would take its toll. You have to accept this is a rather disjointed narrative.

My bedroom view in Weymouth

These memories serve to remind me that we always misbehave when together and I think that’s another reason I travel alone, I get into less trouble.

Cargo taxes.

We had arrived in Weymouth when it was sunny and bright, hopped off the train and found our lovely hotel there and all was well if a little nippy. After a solid night of drinking and fish ‘n’ chipping, we got on the bus the next day to go fossil huntin’. This was when the weather and surreal memories become rather hazy.

Sam the postie can’t resist a post box!

There’s something about going to the sea when the weather is cold and stormy that makes it otherworldly and magnificent. Crashing seas, driving sleety winds, sudden huge dangerous waves and tides stealthily creeping up on you. It’s a far cry from just ambling along the beach in spring and finding some little ammonites, then a lovely dinner in front of a log fire at a local pub hostelry nearby.

Fishing boats in from the mad bad sea.

No dear friends. It’s more landslide dangers, managing to get on the bloody beach quickly enough before the bloody tide changes, climbing over very slippery rocks, me having to blindly look for those tiny ancient things (as I was blind as a bat and still wearing glasses at that time), and being patronised by Sam with her beady eyesight, who kept shouting ‘I’ve found another one!’ It was all that and the pub was rough and crude and far from the sea due to our last minute booking idea. It was not really very good for anything much and finding food nearby was a push.

Thinking back on that, however, I’m being very unfair. The pub had an open fire and the landlords kept the bar open for us until two in the morning and the two young builders, the only other guests, kept Sam happy.

Now my mate Sam, she does get a little frisky after a few drinks, and generally targets any waiters, builders, locals of any type really and sets about devouring them. They don’t stand a chance. So the younger builder was ordered to take her to the beach in the middle of the night in a howling gale to have a beach fire. I went to bed I knew this would end in tears and they wouldn’t be mine.

View after second days storm

The next morning I knocked on her door. She was unrepentant and told me huskily of what a laugh it had been, breathing her dragon breath on me. I left her to get dressed as I slipped down to get a hearty breakfast before going out onto the beach to go dig up a dinosaur.

It was a long walk and really not to be done in our fragile condition. The cobwebs were not blown away and realistically it was dangerous work, just walking around with howling winds and hangovers.

Walk down to fossil beach.

That changed nothing, we had a great time. We were ill-prepared but it was such an adventure and so different that every hour was a new challenge in that changeable weather. It was to teach me a few tricks for my arsenal of knowledge on future trips when travelling alone.

Our hotel on the first night

Top tip: When reaching a certain age or just if you have bad eyesight, don’t attempt a trip like this. You won’t be able to see a thing and glasses for nearsighted are worse than useless. It’s frustrating and demoralising. This was the reason I went straight off to look into having surgery on my eyes. When I finally had my rather horrific Frankenstein surgery done it was a revelation. Finally, I could do anything and not fear the consequences, I could be the gung-ho, wild traveller that I always had been when my sight was still perfect and I was young and carefree.

Unsurprisingly, I have no photos after the first day for I must have been in poor shape. There are no visual memories of the amazing old fossil shop with its work studio, the beautiful countryside, or indeed the descent to the beach with its huge rocks embedded with the shadows of some huge ammonites of long ago. In that bitter cold and driving rain, all that could be concentrated on was not to fall over and to try and find the very tiny curly fossils of yesteryear that lurked around the bigger rocks. It was really impossible for me with my sight so bad at that point, that I could barely make out anything behind my misty rain-splattered specs. I think we were happy enough just to have done it and to have braved the elements, however difficult.


Fossil hunting is a weird thing to do in the middle of a bitter rough stormy spell, in sub-zero temperatures, but hey, that’s how I rock.