It was Boxing Day yesterday, and tradition dictates that we head down to the South coast for a shindig with my extended family. I think there were twenty six of us, all the offspring, or partners of the offspring of just two people, my Grannie and Grampa Garner. A fact I find quite moving.
We all stayed in a hotel in a town on the edge of the New Forest called Ringwood. The hotel was doing a really good deal on rooms booked between Christmas and New Year, a period of time they were laughably calling Twixtmas. We had a sit-down meal and a Secret Santa where I “won” nail polish and a little pink suitcase just big enough to store my nail scissors in. In the end I swapped it with my Mum for a couple of bath bombs but the nail varnish did a circuit of the table and all of us decided to paint a nail. That’s solidarity!
Today was my Mum’s birthday and she decided to take us all to a mysterious ruined village on the Dorset coast called Tyneham. It’s presently situated in land belonging to the Ministry of Defence, in fact, the village was forcefully seized by the MoD during the Second World War. I’m not altogether sure why they were so desperate for the land, but they only gave villagers fifteen days’ notice to leave. I can’t really imagine anything worse than being brought up in an intensely rural community, and suddenly having everything you know taken away from you. I’m sure they were rehoused, but equally sure they wouldn’t have ended up anywhere near their former neighbours.
After the people moved out, of course, the houses slowly went to rack and ruin. Roofs collapsed, woodwork rotted, but the stonework remained and has now been preserved as an eerie memory of what once was.
There’s a school house and a church, both of which have been renovated so that visitors can get a feel for how the place must have been. There’s also a rather charming barn where they’ve placed a little stage. The barn was apparently the place where villagers would stage little shows including a performance of Alice in Wonderland. Photographs of some of the productions lined the walls of the barn.
We left Tyneham and headed for Corfe Castle, which towers over the landscape in these parts like a majestic ship rising from the mist. The village surrounding Corfe Castle is actually also called Corfe Castle, so one assumes the correct name for the Castle itself is actually Corfe Castle Castle!
The village is stunningly beautiful and full of ancient sandstone houses which seemed to almost glow in the wintry sunlight.
Lunch was in a pub on a hillside overlooking the village. My Auntie Glen had organised a surprise second family gathering for my Mum, involving my cousins Matt and Simon, Matt’s son, Harry and my Uncle John along with Nathan, me, Brother Edward and my Dad. We were very heavy on the men! In fact, my Aunt and my Mum were the only two women sitting around the table. I looked around the pub and it suddenly struck me how most family units are fairly equal when it comes to the ratio of men and women. I have often sat and watched groups sitting at tables wondering who fits with whom and why they’re all there. Anyone looking at us today would have been very confused!
Auntie Glen arranged a cake and Uncle John paid for everyone’s food, which was hugely generous.
The journey back to London was less thwarted by traffic jams as a similar journey had been this time last year. We listened to Rumours by Fleetwood Mac. It’s quite good driving music!