As with every storm, there is a period of tranquility as long as you are in the right location at the right time.
With chaos and turbulence all around, there is a period of respite if you happen to spend time in the eye of the storm which gives one a time to recharge, to gather thoughts before the inevitable onslaught of a second wave.
This week I sought out the eye of the storm, and after many years of promising to spend some time on the south coast of England, airport blockades gave me the needful kick up the backside to experience what others have always said about Devon.
Keeping costs down to a bare minimum, we set up camp in Dawlish (scene of its own storm seven years ago when Mother Nature ripped apart its coastal railway to pieces) and plotted our week of relaxation, exploration and adventure.
Like the mystic who peers into the bottom of the teacup for insights, I held my plastic beaker up to the sunlight to see it also reveal a similar eye of the storm. Ordinarily that would predict an ensuing hangover but we managed to find non-alcoholic rum which tasted remarkably like the real thing when poured over “the real thing”.
Like a great many of us, lock-down has provided its own opportunities to learn new things. New hobbies, new skills, old habits which die hard. I’ve gone through extended periods of sobriety over the last six months but also recall a few regrettable occasions where empty bottles have been kicked aside by unshoed toes through bleary morning eyes.
So our trip was a sober one (save one day where we consumed a few afternoon beers) and a much welcomed change to our usual holiday boozing and excessive weight gain.
The campsite itself was the best I’ve ever been to in the UK, with outdoor and indoor swimming pools, restaurant, pub, shop, kids adventure playgrounds and five fishing lakes, and the weather made it the perfect place to kick back and whittle some.
Dawlish, Teignmouth, Torbay and Brixham provided our south coast adventures, with adventure golf, ancient caverns, forest walks and obligatory fish ‘n’ chips on the beach keeping us busy and Woolacombe Beach on the north coast allowing us to swim in the sea, embarrass ourselves with some primordial body boarding, as well as giving us all the obligatory lobstered-look the next day, as only the Brits can truly achieve with aplomb.
All of this was proliferated with several short early morning bursts of fishing on the lakes, catching bream, tench and carp (the largest of which was around six pounds – the biggest fish I’ve ever caught).
Our last day saw us take a boat trip down the Jurassic Coast, taking in the views of the coastal towns, sandstone outcroppings and the beautiful and pea green sea (apt after eating at the Owl and the Pussy Cat in Teignmouth for the wife’s birthday the night before), accompanied by clotted cream scones, jam, tea and Julie Peasgood – soap star from Brookside which set in my home time of Liverpool, who sat next to us who now lives in the area as a writer.
The overwhelming beauty about this week was just how “normal” it was. Camping is by its very nature self-isolating and socially distancing, with each family given there allotted “metreage” away from everybody else, as it was at the outdoor swimming pool, play parks and fishing lakes. The only notable difference was the directional arrows on the floor of the shop and the masks worn by the bar and restaurant staff, but done in a subliminal way.
The footfall was notably lesser too. This week being the height of the summer season (kids first week off school in the summer holidays in the UK), our last three days were spent in isolation our field of twenty camping spaces. Whether the site will be there next year with the same facilities and capacity time will tell, here’s hoping it will as the staff there were uber-friendly and it would be a real shame for it to go under. We are already booking to go back there such was its appeal and such is the uncertainly about international travel.
As I was up all week as dawn broke to go fishing, my circadian rhythm was still set to daft ‘o’ clock so I was up early today, taking the dog for a walk on my local beach up north, both man and dog happy to rekindle their morning sojourn before the day started for the rest of the troops.
The low tide brings with it the opportunity to get to the other side of our local lighthouse, and for a brief moment, a break in the dark and foreboding clouds gave the light of the sun the ability to shine through its fresnel, providing a clearer outlook, not unlike my trip to Devon this week.
Who knows what the new normal will be hereafter, but if you can take time and spend it in the eye of the storm, you will feel a lot better for it as I do today…