A Walk in the Park is Inevitably Interrupted by Some Dirty Old Bum
By Sasha Boyesen
Swanage is a seaside town set on the beach. It is situated at the very tip of the Isle of Purbeck, a penisula where perhaps the only palm tree in Britian can be found. It is so far south it is even blessed with its own weather system. Some days, if you sit-down on the beach, you can look out to Bournemouth and see it pissing down, while you bask in the sunshine on a clear day. In lingering moments you can even see the Isle of Wight in the distance and hear the ministry of defence bombing away at their practice range up in the hills.View of Swanage
The Isle of Purbeck (explicitly not the ‘Purbeck isle’ but ‘The Isle of Purbeck’) is in the County of Dorset of south east England. For decades it has been the destination for idylic British holiday-makers. The only way in and out of swanage is a very narrow countryside lane. You can be sure in the Summertime rain or shine you’ll find yourself in traffic stuck behind hoards of merry sunscreen-smeered jolly conservative Mommies and Daddies pulling sticky, screeching Jamesies and Bettsies leaning out of windows back into their cars. They clutch their little plastic sandcastle-buckets and pudgy sugar-stuffed tummies, while the metaphysical stout iconic British-Bulldog pants with pride in the backseat.
Up the road from Swanage is Corfe Castle, home of Enid Blyton, England’s most beloved children’s writer. The genius of “Noddy”, “The Famous Five” and “The Magic Far Away Tree,” the last which was my personal childhood favourite, can be seen clearly in the hills, pasture land, cliff side walks, and woodland; making evident the magic fantasy world that ran rampant in Enid’s mind.
“Oh how I do like to be beside the seaside,” The alltime British holiday maker’s anthem, was surely composed for Swanage. The Funworld Arcade on the beach – equipped with minature carousel – entices all children. Punch and Judyin the sand 15 Times a Day, Ice-cream, Beach huts, Fish and Chips, the pier, peddle-paddle boats, the steam train: this makes up the picture-perfect image that is Swanage. Roll up, roll up, folks, this ain’t Cornwall, but it will do.
The Ice-Cream Starts to Taste of Childhood Lost
As I have often done for 18 pounds (extortionate), you can take a bus from Victoria Station in London to Poole. It takes approximentaly 3 hours. You arrive in Poole, a town near swanage. From Poole you can catch a bus to swanage costing a fiver and another hour of your time. But take note, there is only one bus that leaves Swanage for London at 6am everyday. Most likely it will be raining upon arrival, and after passing the lucious greens of the vallies, hedges, and hills on your bus-ride, Swanage may look bleak and somehow gray. There’s something about the old Purbeck stone houses in contrast to the very tastless 6o’s-styled Mowlem Theatre, the supermarket, the drizzle, the pensioners dressed in their fleshy colored clothing, that can make you sigh.
One night some years ago in Harmans Cross (a mile and a half outside Swanage) two of my good friends had come to visit me on the farm where I was living. I was getting a good deal on a static caravan from the farmer there. We walked into Swanage through the woods, had a pint, dawdled around with the locals, and then with the boredom of youth running rife we decided to get coked out in the countryside, which is probably not the best thing for stiffleing boredom. With no real solution to our desires we drank up and marched back toward Harmans Cross, with the sharp countryside air whipping in our ears, listening to The guise of silence that dissolves into melodious fresh bird-song and chirruping insects.
One of my friends visiting at the time was a dashingly androgenous young lady by the name of Joe. To her delight and conveniance, as she had a preference for seducing woman, she was perpetually mistaken for a teenage boy. Myself, Fidan, and Joe came to the edge of Swanage, and we found ourselves outside The Legion Club. Legionaires, British nationalists, etc. were only allowed here. At the door of The Legion stood a lad, 20 something, smoking his fag. “Hey mate,” Joe said to the lad, “What’s going on in there tonight?”
“Aw, nawt much, eh? Just a bit of this n’ that,” said the lad.
I asked the lad for one of his fags and took a post beside Joe. “Hey, Joe, maybe he’s got something,” I murmered.
I introduced myself, my companions, and asked the lad if he could score some blow.
“Yeah sure, I just haveta call my mate ang on a sec.” The lad disappeared inside, I felt gleeful to be seeing another side to this strange legionaires joint that had always seemed shady.
The lad reappeared. “Hey, yeah. Girls arn’t alow’d so yell. Hayve to wait here.” The lad nodded to Joe, and Joe grinning at the hilarity followed the lad inside.
Joe reappeared 10 minutes later with the stuff and a very funny story to tell. She had followed the lad down into a stall in the mens room (as he supposed her a bloke) to make the deal. As well as pulling out the Coke, the lad also pulled out his cock. he stood there looking expectant. Joe laughed and suavely said, “I’m not inta that, mate.”
Walking is really the only way to get around Swanage. You may find yourself walking to one of the neighboring villages just to broaden your horizons, and to get the hell out of Swange before the robust everyday British routine gets too much.
You will find the nearest village is a minimum of 2 miles from Swanage (Hence this walking business). Gets a bit iffy after the 5th time.
Up the hill a few miles away, past langton, is Worth Matravers. You can find a gem there by the name of The Square and Compass, the only Pub worth going to for miles. Its round cobble stone walls and steamy windows glowing with a warm light, and the shingled mossy roof, confirms any sensation of timelessness you may have.
Since 1907 The Square and Compass has been run and owned by generations of the Newman family, the pub and venue of exotic weekend delight, shrouded by decades of gossip chattered with well-founded reason. It has been the haunt of oldtimers and goodtimers alike. It was 1776 that The Sloop in Worth Matavers, aptly named as it was the reputable place for smugglers to converge, became an ale house . In 1830 a stone mason by the name of Charles Bower took over and changed the name to The Square and Compass, by which it is now known.
The Square and Compass hosts a selection of annual events that everyone looks forward too: the jazz festival, the stone carving fair, the pumpkin contest, The Square Fair, and somehow every Friday and S aturday you can expect something good. The Square has become very, very well known for delivering in abundance some of the best acts to be found from all around the world.
Mama Rosin, The Luminescent Orchestrii, The Dead Plants, Delaney Davidson, The Hightown Crows, Philip Clouts Trio, The New Prohibition Band, Rag Mama Rag, The Rude Mechanical Theatre, Gadjo, Pronghorn, and numerous others have all found their way into the back room, nestled in amongst scores of locals and tourists, boozed-up, vice smeared and jolly. Only slightly aware of the saga they are partaking in.
The ghosts of good times, sometimes a classic good time, sometimes a tainted and drug addled good time, sometimes a quiet good time, sometimes the good time of wellies and Barbour jackets and jack russels, sometimes the good time of city dwelling youth well dressed and bubbling, sometimes a good time of gaunt wanderers stumbled upon unknowingly, sometimes the good time of woodfires and musty books, sometimes the good time of drunkenly hugging the wall.
The holiday makers piss off… And now it’s winter.
The long cold, biting winters that linger eternally in the nip of sea wind bring a feeling of desolation to the villages in the Isle of Purbeck. From Worth Matravers to Swanage the beaches are abandoned and night time swiftly sets in. The locals meet in the pubs and warm their blood with whiskey ciders and draft beers. It can get awfully quiet and lonesome.Rodger Brown, Philanthropist
Rodger Brown (an infamous local) can be seen peddling his electric bicycle from pub to pub, making his daily rounds of drinking, as he slowly makes his way home up the hill, donning his long white beard, rain mac and cussing breathlessly. He once said to me in his thick Darset accent, “I’ll take ya dawn thayt garden and give ya a good shagging!”
I kindly declined and settled down to drink my ginger wine and watch the crows make their daily jaunt from the rubbish tip to the woods.
Swanage is certainly stuck in her ways.John Mowlem’s Grave, Founder of Swanage
In fact I just saw Rodger today. True to his routine, and the ways of Swanage, this morning he was sitting outside the pub waiting for it to open. Rodger kindly agreed to pose for a picture. I asked Rodger if he had anything to say about swanage. In reply he didn’t mention the Chalk Cliffs of The Isle of Purbeck, Gallows Gore, John Mowlem the founder of this fair town. He didn’t mention he is a stone mason, nor did he mention the weather. Rodger turned his grubby face to mine and in his flemmy, gruffy voice he said, “Ave an awful, awful day. Just have a bad day!” And then he disappeard inside the pub to commence his drinking.
Locations In Swanage
Square and Compass
Swanage, Dorset BH19 3LF
The Luminescent Orchestrii
The Dead Plants
The Hightown Crows
Philip Clouts Trio
The New Prohibition Band
Rag Mama Rag