OK, this joke about Dorset, where we’ve just spent the first chunk of a rather longer holiday than usual, a place which T- Mobile and broadband forgot, a place where it’s always “whatever-o clock”, slow, measured and clotted-creamy, has gone on long enough.
Dorset is a tiny county which it takes longer to reach by car than a return trip by Easy Jet to Venice. Above all Dorset belongs to the memory of Thomas Hardy. He’s the creator of names like Eustacia Vye, Damon Wildeve and Bathsheba Everdene. He’s the writer of novels in which the dreadful hand of fate constantly touches the shoulder of the unlucky or amoral - the nearest we have to a writer of Greek tragedy.
But there’s something else.
An award for exceptional marketing goes to Dorset.
We were entertaining our grandchildren (or vice versa). Over three days we did the following:
Visited the ruins of Corfe Castle (one of the few strongholds to withstand the parliamentary forces in the south of England in the mid-1600s) where we learned to use a sword - “aim for the nose” - a halbert - “great for gouging at close quarters” and a bow and arrow - lethal wounds were delivered to head, groin, legs and upper body of the targeted strawmen.
And so on to Abbotsbury - an award winning sub-tropical garden - huge Monterey Cypresses, brilliant succulent plants ; the Swannery - 600 of the white feathered thugs whom the children all fed with grain and we learned about their habits (did you know that the wretches bask in the reputation of being “one-swan-guys” but they all pop off for constant “surreptitious affairs” at the “Bonking Swan” no doubt.)
And then their farm. There’s more money to be made now by tarmacking fields and having kids ride plastic tractors, have pony rides, watch lamb races, have close contact with exotic birds (in the cage with the budgerigars and parakeets) and operate radio controlled pirate boats on the lake - than there ever could be by growing stuff.
Finally the museum day - “oh no Grandpa not museums!” Dorchester is about the same size as Goldaming, Newport Pagnell or Kenilworth… so quite small. It has a Town Museum and five (yes - five) others. A Teddy Bear Museum; a reproduction of the Terracotta Warriors, a Dinosaurs Museum (where else have you heard “kids - you can touch anything here”);
an abbreviated version of the British Museum Tutenkhamun Exhibition and the Mummies (the boys loved these dead bodies so much that they eyed me as if to say “not long now.”). Where else could there be this much enterprise, enthusiasm to please and involve and overall sense of drama? If everyone attacked their cultural opportunity as well as this then all would be well in the sector.
Dorset I’ve heard you loud and clear.
And one other thing. Dorchester has a Michelin star restaurant. Proof that there’s more to life than my smart phone.