It’s been a weird few weeks in little old England – apart from a trip to Skegness we have been holed up in Manchester due to my back problem and Buffy working. It’s now time to get out and away for a few days though before I start work, so we have been down to Dorset and the little old Georgian town that I spent six weird, wonderful and whacky years working in - Blandford Forum.
|Looking down Gold hill - not changed for 50 odd years at least!|
|Nice hotel - thatched roof - good shower|
Now Blandford is a small town, just a few miles north of Poole and Bournemouth. It is the home to The Royal School of Signals where I enjoyed my time as a technical instructor from 1998 to 2004. It’s where I bought my first ever house and we took a small detour around to Ashmore Close to take a look at it. The house was a pretty small 2 up 2 down but I had a lot of fun there, so it was nice to see its still there and looking good with new windows and a new front door – although I do prefer the big red door I had when I lived there. We also took a look around town, which hasn’t changed much – still full of locals from Blaaaaaaaaandford and still a quaint georgian town with lovely stone buildings and too much traffic. A quick stop at my old pub ‘The 3 Choughs’, where I enjoyed 3 brilliant years behind the bar was a little sad, as the insides have now been gutted and the building is an empty shell. Looking through the windows I imagined the ghosts of so many good times and have no recollection of so many more it made me a little sad to see it sitting empty and unused. There is a notice on the door about putting up a sign and it looks like it may be turned into a coffee shop. I hope it does as I would love to see it busy again doing something rather than just be left empty and cold as it is now.
|The Choughs is dead!|
|Inside the old pub|
|There used to be a badger in the fireplace there|
After a quick drive around town we took a drive up Black Lane to the army camp and booked in as visitors to the Royal Signals Museum. You can gain entry to the camp doing this and we took advantage by driving around camp and I showed Buffy all my old work places and accommodations on camp before eventually returning to the museum. It was then we realised that the passes we were given showed the time we had entered camp and that we had been moseying around for just over half an hour. The museum staff noticed this and asked where we had been for so long, since the entrance is just 500 metres up the road. I waffled something about being lost and having lunch before I was recognised as an ex squaddie and made to look a bit stupid! They told us off a little for venturing around camp before letting us into see the museum (Slapped wrists for me! Haahaa)
|Doing some comms shit|
|Last man in the middle.... Big G!!|
|Home of a sorts...|
The museum itself hasn’t changed much since it was finished in the 90’s. With some cool displays but some old stuff too. One of the computer aided displays told us all about the modern army of 1991!! However, we enjoyed a look around and I enjoyed boring Buffy about the equipment we saw that I used to work on and some if it that at the time I was the go to expert for the whole Corps of Signals. It was a little sad to see the kit I used to know so well now sitting unused in the museum, but times and technology changes and its now all out of date. We spent the last 20 minutes or so on the worst driving simulator you have ever seen – turning a steering wheel and driving across a desert landscape to tents where we stopped to be told about various types of communication from runners with paper to modern laser communications. It was fun but not very enthralling! I really enjoyed the visit though and recognised a few faces on camp. There was also a face I recognised in one photo – a photo of 7 Signal Regiment in 1999 – there slap bang in the middle was my big brother Gareth, from when he was posted there – weird or what!!
Later that night after a huge kebab for dinner, we drove down to spend the evening in Wimborne – the next town along and spent a couple of hours with an old mate of mine – Michelle. She used to be married to my mate Si and we have been friends for about 14 years, so it was really good to see her and have a chat to catch up.
After a good nights sleep in our 4 star thatched pub hotel we decided on a bit of breakfast at ‘The Gorge’ cafe in town. This used to be a favourite haunt of mine to get some food, read the Sunday papers and recover from a hangover every weekend! So we drove into town and whilst walking t other cafe were beeped by a passing car. It turned out to be an ex girlfriend and good mate of mine – Claire. I hadn’t seen her in years so passed a couple of messages back and forth on facebook and we ended up going around her house for a brew and a chat later on in the afternoon. We also saw Claire’s mum who was round to see her two grandkids. It was a little surreal but really great to see Claire and her mum and it was cool to catch up and chat about how everyone else we used to know has got on over the last few years. That was late in the afternoon though and before that me and Buffy had been around most of Dorset!
|The gorge is still the same!|
After the Gorge breakfast – (which incidentally to those of you who don’t know is decorated inside like a pink cave and has been since 1979), we had been through Poole and took a look at the millionaires mansions that line the beachfront in Sandbanks, before taking the cool little ‘chain’ ferry across to Purbeck. A drive through the lovely countryside brought us out at Corfe Castle – with the ruins overlooking the gorgeous little town from atop a nearby hill.
Further along the coast we stopped at Lulworth Cove – famous for its tales of smugglers from long ago and with its beautiful shell shaped bay. We walked from there along the cliff tops a mile or so to one of my favourite places - Durdle Door - (passing some fat squaddies on the way) The stunning natural archway that juts out into the sea by a lovely bay and secluded beach. We spent a while there looking around, taking photos and finding fossils walking back to Lulworth chatting to a bloke called Pete about his 53 year old motorbike and £5,50 mobile phone. He also told us about driving 250 miles to pick up a shed!! It was nearly the end of a lovely day out so we took the drive back to Blandford through the Dorset country lanes and went around to Claire’s for a cup of tea and to say hello.
|My first house!|
|Another name for Blandford!?|
|On the chain ferry.|
|The chain that the ferry pulls itself along|
After an evening in town watching the latest United game in ‘The Railway’, we went back to our little thatched hotel for a good nights sleep before heading back north.
|Looking down the coast|
|Her Highness the Buffmeister at Durdle Door|
We did stop off on the way back to Manchester – just outside Bristol, is one of the most stunning bridges in England, planned and partially built by one of the greatest Britons ever – Isambard Kingdom Brunel. He died before it was finished, but the Clifton Suspension bridge is one of my favourite ever bridges. It is an amazing view from the bridge and looking at it from every angle too so we had to stop off and take the chance to walk and drive over it on the way home.
|Isambard Kingdom Brunel|
|One of my favourite things! Big building stuff!|
|I jumped it!!|
It was a chilly rainy day but that didn’t spoil our walk across and the views into the chasm below the bridge. We took our time to have a look around the Bristol side before driving across in the car and heading northwards and the M5 motorway and finally Manchester by teatime.
After an evening at the Pub Quiz it was time for me to do something very strange - get up for work.
I haven't been trying to keep it a secret and its not that exciting, but I have been accepted for and signed a contract as a delivery driver for Asda. Taking home shopping from the store to peoples homes. I will be working out of the store in Hyde and will be doing about 26 hours a week. Its not the best paid job in the world, but it sound like fun. A bit of freedom on the road and a pretty easy and stress free day dropping off frozen Yorkshire puddings and cheap cheese slices to old ladies, lonely housewife's and the lazy bugars who cant get out of bed before 3 in the afternoon. I did my induction on Friday and it was the first paid days work I have done in 1213 days. It was a day of watching shitty videos and signing paperwork, but now that's done I start the training properly at 0715 on Monday morning. The training will show me how to carry out the job as a home delivery driver and after 2-3 weeks I will go live with the rest of the new drivers at the Hyde superstore on the outskirts of Manchester. I'm really looking forward to it.
|Do I look good!?|
|Yeah, I know -its a weird face.|
Its going to be nice to get out and do something with my life again - at least for a few weeks anyway!
Sorry you all thought it was some kind of secret job - I wasn't trying to be all secretive - but I didn't want to say anything till it was all confirmed. Anyway, that's it for now - time for a beer and an early night.
Unlucky Warrington - I was shouting for you!!