Lush Places, Dorset
Just down the road is that well-heeled, genteel little Dorset town whose name all non-locals mispronounce.
‘We love Bee-minster,’ they say, their unintentional mistake instantly revealing that they are not of this county.
They don’t see the bored youngsters on a Saturday night, the sad, drug-taking loser in a dirty flat, the lonely old lady living on her own, and the couple yelling at each other in front of their children and a blaring television.
‘And we just love Bridport,’ the incomers say. 'It’s so arty, so Bohemian, so cosmopolitan.’
And as they venture through the artists’ quarter, picking up pieces of distressed furniture for next to nothing but making a tidy profit for their owners who bought it from Lawrences’ auction, they make their way to Waitrose for some figs and Parma ham and a bunch of flowers they could have bought much cheaper from the stall outside.
They wander along the street market, picking up pieces of junk and muttering that they used to have something like that and should never have got rid of it. They walk by the Big Issue seller and the man with the tattooed neck, the woman with a large behind who is wearing leggings and a snotty-faced child who still has a dummy at the age of four.
They don’t see the shoplifter hovering around Frosts, the deals going on up narrow alleys or the mad woman made mad by the man who abused her.
Likewise, Lush Places, does not appear on the incomers’ radar. It ducks it, scrambles it or does whatever it needs to do to avoid detection. It limbos under the Beautiful Bar and if you ever find it, it will be purely by chance. And if you go back to try to find it again, it won’t be there, it will have disappeared.
While the sun beats down in upmarket Beaminster and glows along Bridport’s South Street like a blazing spacehopper, Lush Places quietly gets on with everyday life, unhindered by tourists, the crowds and even people who just want to get away from it all.
It is protected by a bubble of mist that reveals itself only when it knows the incomers have gone home for the day, or are safely tucked up in their boutique hotel beds and quaint B&Bs.
This is the place where I live, the place I love, where three-legged cats go hunting at night, gutted rabbits are left as gifts by a gamekeeper in the morning and an unhealthy interest is taken by the neighbours in other people’s recycling.
It’s where when my washing machine and tumble dryer break down, I can rely on a neighbour to not only provide me with an alternative but to offer to do the ironing too.
It is a place where when a Londoner scrapes my car while doing a U-turn and then says that kind of thing happens all the time in Highgate you can be sure that three people have clocked his registration number and a fourth has offered to rearrange his kneecaps.
It is a place where when I fall off my bike into a hedge after too many drinks at a party down the road, a passing policeman tells my husband who is cycling ahead that he has just seen me crash, but can’t stop to help because he’s looking for poachers.
It’s a place where we take direct action against obtrusive street lighting, which pokes its beams into our bedrooms in the name of Dorset County Council improvements, by getting licensed deer stalker Mr Champagne-Charlie to take each one out, individually, with a well- aimed rifle.
It’s a place where the drinkers keep on drinking. It’s where the Jehovah’s Witnesses arrive en masse, determined to shake up this godless place once and for all.
It’s the place where when a door-to-door salesman makes an unwanted call on an elderly neighbour, the village folk step in and direct him to Beaminster. Where when a man trips over the kerb, six arms reach out to break his fall.
Lush Places. It's the place I love.
You can order the novella, A Year in Lush Places from bookshops and it is also available to order online. The Book Depository offers free delivery worldwide. It's also available in Kindle format. See Amazon reviews here.
* The Guardian has an excellent holiday guide to Dorset, which you can find here. It includes accommodation, places to eat and lots of things to do.
Check out the two articles on the top ten family days out because I wrote those.