Trafalgar Day, and every year a ceremony is held on HMS Victory, Nelson’s flagship, in Portsmouth Dockyard. How would I know this? I was born in Portsmouth and although we moved away when I was four, we returned every summer to visit the grandparents. In days gone by, the Dockyard used to hold Navy Days, and I think as part of this, a children’s essay writing competition was held, writing about Nelson, or HMS Victory. I entered, and won, so the date is impressed on my memory.
The day started with a hilarious conversation at breakfast. I should explain that we sit at tables of four. It would normally be eight but we are distancing. Which is actually rather good because then you can speak to everyone on your table. Today the talk turned to deer in the garden. The couple from Oxfordshire said yes, they had them too. Also squirrels. So we commiserated. Then he said, “but I trap them.” So I thought, how humane, he takes them to a wood and releases them. But no. “We eat them.” His wife explained that you need at least two in a pot to get enough meat. She boils them and then removes the bones and makes “squirrel goulash.” I asked what it tasted like: “squirrel,” she replied, and laughed. Then he told us about the road kill deer, which he loaded into the boot, took home, and watched a YouTube guide on butchering a deer. “40 lbs of venison in the freezer,” he said proudly. Oh you see life at HF centres.
As it was raining steadily, we decided to visit Dimbola, a museum devoted to the work of Julia Margaret Cameron, the Victorian photographer. It is named after a tea plantation in Ceylon, as it was then called, which she and her husband owned. It was a truly fascinating place, about the history of photography, and her portraits have become very well known, of Tennyson, Darwin, Herschel and others. I liked this one, which she said was her first success.
This afternoon the weather cleared and we went to Godshill, a chocolate-box pretty village full of tinkling tea shops, most of which are currently closed. I think it must be a favourite venue of coach parties, under normal circumstances.
Pretty church, open too. We had a short walk around in the fields surrounding the village but it was very muddy because of the recent cascading rain. But all things considered, the weather has been very benign.