ONE of the joys of no longer being based in an office, with its defined working hours, is that you are free to choose when you want to work – which may be from 5am or until well beyond midnight – and when you can take time out. (There are other advantages, such as no longer being tied by the destructive – to your soul and ultimately the wellbeing of your staff and your customers/readers – combination of ever increasing targets and ever reducing budgets, imposed by the faceless corporation that owns you; also never again having to sit through a tedious one-to-one with a “manager” who thinks that is what “managing people” is about. But I digress …)
There is an extra frisson of pleasure from having a day out when most of the rest of the world is working. It’s not so much wanting to be one of those “ladies who lunch” as being able to enjoy a walk at the coast or a drink and lunch in a pub garden without having to pick your way over or round sun-bathers, walkers or drinkers.
We can mostly avoid the summer weekend horrors of the A303 – even worse than usual this past weekend with a shocking accident that closed the road near Mere for more than eight hours – and we can give ourselves the luxury of leaving earlier for an evening out, so that we can take a road less travelled, walk the puppy and still arrive in good time for fish and chips and a paddle at the beach, after the holidaymakers have returned to their hotels or campsites.
Last week, for the first time in years, we went to Hamble Le Rice, on the Hamble river east of Southampton. We met a friend who came over on the ferry from the Isle of Wight and headed over the Woolston bridge to the cooler and more pleasant surroundings of the pretty riverside village. Hamble seems little changed in the years since I last went there and is less self-consciously yachty than Lymington, although there are plenty of boats and yachts moored along the river.
Inevitably Southampton has spread eastward, so that Bursledon and Netley all blur into an amorphous sprawl, but Hamble itself remains a discrete village, with its picturesque cottages, ancient pubs and the tidal river which runs down to the Solent.
We chose The Bugle Inn, because it was so close to the river, and because there were tables outside where we hoped Pippin the puppy would be allowed. In fact, he was welcome inside as well, enchanted the two barmaids and charmed a couple of local drinkers who wanted to take him home. He chewed his way through the ice-cream container they brought him with water, but behaved impeccably while we enjoyed good local beer and lunch.
Later we walked along the river path and down to the beach where three month-old Pippin met 10 month-old Blackberry and had a terrific play, racing round and round in ever decreasing circles.
On our way back, we stopped at a farm shop on the outskirts of Bursledon – this part of Hampshire has long had fertile market gardens and we were able to buy locally grown broad beans, runner beans, peas and one of those huge dark green cabbages which are always trimmed within a millimetre of their lives by the supermarkets.
We dropped our friend back at the ferry, stopping to gaze in rather depressed awe at the huge cruise ship in the docks where once the trans-Atlantic liners and the boats bound for South Africa or Australia used to moor. There was a romance to those great ships which is sorely lacking in these giant floating hotels that look as if they are made of white Lego. Still, it is good business for the port, and for many people a cruise is a dream holiday.
We were clear of Southampton long before rush-hour and back home with time to change for the opening night of Dorset Opera Festival at Bryanston – so we were working late that night, but relaxed and refreshed by sea air, beautiful weather, time with a good friend and our visit to a lovely riverside village which is off our usual routes.
A day out can be as good as a holiday – you recharge your batteries without the hassles of motorway driving, airports, security checks, lost luggage or finding that your holiday home bears no resemblance to the picture on the website. I recommend it!