A Beach Barbecue


It’s been great weather for writing this weekend: bright spells for sunshine adventures and heavy rain clouds for staying in bed to simply type (with tea, of course). With some writing due for Style of Wight, we set out to do some ‘on-site research’ (play and photos mission) on ‘A Perfect Day at the Beach’. Someone pointed out to me that our perfect day may not look like most. True, for this project we did visit beaches only before 7am and after 7pm. But, those are the magic hours, not just for the light, but also the promise of coffee & donuts or beer & burgers.


We’re not seasoned barbecuers. This trip was our first graduation from a disposable bbq. I just got fed up with throwing away all that tin at the end of a meal. Our bucket setup worked a treat, fired by local charcoal that we kept burning long enough to cook up a storm: local burgers, asparagus, elephant garlic and lamb koftis. The dying coals proved perfect for toasting marshmallows. Tom defied all logic and had only one s’more. It’s almost like he didn’t pay attention to the instruction in the name.


It’s a busy week ahead, but with my mind full of fresh air from the weekend, and Blogtacular to look forward to this coming Saturday, I’m sure the week will breeze by. I hope you have a good one too.

A Windy Day and a Birthday

Derek and Bryony and Compton Beach, Isle of Wight

Windy days like these are perfect for blustery beach walks after filling up on a birthday brunch. My brother was home from London for the weekend, so we took the excuse to get the family together and celebrate his birthday a few days early.

Driving out to the countryside, it felt like late autumn; the strong winds have made a mess of tidy road edges, and the rapidly stripped leaves reveal creaky old oak. Mum welcomed us with hot coffee, while we caught up on our weeks and stuffed our faces with fried potatoes and bacon.

We had bright sun on our beach walk, and the wind was whipping the waves in to a froth. Something about the wind and crashing waves makes me want to run around and twirl. Food, family and blustery walks are the makings of a good Sunday. And chocolate cake helps too..

Kite surfer on stormy day at Brook Chine

Alec and Wendy on the beach and birthday cake photo collage

Beach Run

Bryony running on beach with sea in background

Bryony on the beach and pebbles photo collage

This is a new feeling for me: pounding feet in the sand, eye on a distant horizon, rush of waves, and salty air.  Arriving on this firm stretch of sand feels all the sweeter when it comes after hopping over tussocky clifftop grass and gingerly racing down steep steps.  Taking my own advice, we found plenty of excuses to stop, for blackberries on the hill, and photos on the beach.  The blackberries made a pretty sweet crumble for pudding, washed down with plenty of custard, and well-deserved after my first beach run.

Tom picking blackberries

Tide out at Compton Beach, Isle of Wight

The Shipping Forecast

Ship in a bottle at Maritime Museum, Greenwich London

The shipping forecast: great bastion of the BBC, firm rock in the ever-changing storm of radio content. I love Radio 4 for its variety, but I love the shipping forecast for its consistency. No matter if the seas are peaceful or raging, you can always rely on the stoic voice of the forecast reader. With steady rhythm, this poem of the everyday gives hints of distant unknown waters. Most of the places sound exotic and unknown (Cromarty, Lundy, Shannon). But I get a ridiculous pleasure from the thought that our island is a moniker worthy of a region in the forecast: Wight.

British Isles Sea Regions map framed next to a mug and book

I couldn’t resist this print from the V&A and, after a year of sitting in its wrapper, finally had it framed by the lovely Shorelines in town. Tom brought this mug back for me from a summer trip to Wales. It is my firm favourite; perfectly proportioned and beautifully glazed. And of all 31 forecast regions to choose from, I was especially pleased to see that Wight made it on to the mug.

The shipping forecast has an audience of hundreds of thousands, well beyond the seafarers who rely on its information, its reaches to bedside radios across the land as people drift off on distant waves. (And for those of you who prefer to drift off to music, this is the perfect shipping tune from the talented King Creosote).

Sleep is Overrated

Or so I told myself after having very little of it this weekend. The evenings are the most inviting part of these hot days and this weekend the outdoor air was more tempting than a bed for the night. I spent Friday sleeping under the stars, and Saturday cycling through the night.

Mottistone Down Sunset

Bryony looking across at Purbeck

By sundown Friday we had hiked our sleeping bags and dinner up to the top of Mottistone Down, and watched the light fade. I haven’t slept outside without a tent since I was a teenager (and back then it was only an impromptu post-pub lie down). Sleeping outside is its own entertainment and, despite carrying my heavy book and torch up the hill, I was more than happy just watching the sky change, spotting the lights of boats out at sea, and listening to the changing sounds in the woods below us. We slept across the middle of what is by day a very busy path, but by night was a perfect quiet spot for two.

I woke up to the dawn on Saturday morning with a hankering for more summer nights of adventure. And so I made last-minute plans with my dad to ride the Dunwich Dynamo. That guy will never say no to an adventure.

Derek and Bryony at London Fields: Start of Dunwich Dynamo

This overnight ride takes hundreds of cyclists 120 miles from London to the Suffolk coast. From the moment we started cycling across central London we were swept along in an ever-growing number of bikes, all headed to London Fields for the start line. We prepared for the ride with a can of a stout and a fresh-faced ‘before’ picture.

Pub pit stop on Dunwich Dynamo

The group effect never wore off, as our critical mass took over the roads leading out of London, and on to the lanes of sleepy villages, people spilling out in to the road as they stopped at the pub for a quick pint or cup of coffee (much-derided by the landlords). This ride is a long way, so I left the boozing for people made of stronger stuff. I was on the sugary tea.

The roads were perfectly-sized for a group of bikes and we streamed along amongst flashing back lights, hi vis jackets, spinning spoke LEDs, and strings of fairy lights. The countryside might be dark, but there was no way you’d miss us. The just-rock-up-and-ride nature of the Dun Run creates a fabulous mix of machines and easy camaraderie. There’s nothing competitive about it; we’re all just trying to stay awake and make it to the beach. Which we did, after a few power-naps (on Dad’s part) and every last snack in my bar bag. By the morning light we piled into the tiny seaside hamlet of Dunwich, cheered on by a friendly welcome party, and availed ourselves of double breakfast- one at the beach cafe, the other at the pub. This ride is one for your diary- challenging, friendly, and a definite summer night adventure.

Bryony and Derek on the beach at the end of the Dunwich Dynamo