Where Dogs Have no Faces
We went on holiday to Portland. It’s a small island attached to the Dorset coastline. To get to it you drive over an exposed windswept road that somehow hovers above the sea. Portland is actually a headland, but I like to think of it as an Island. It has numerous ravines, where large machinery and hard worn hands toiled to extract the Portland Stone that helped build some of Englands finest buildings. It also has things like this. Faceless dogs as household decorations.
Throughout the island the land is ripped apart. Hemmed in by ancient sedimentary and igneous rocks, there are fossils hidden under snarling waves, and budding paleontologists scampering around with brushes and photos.
At the far end of the Island there are numerous clusters of small sheds, reminiscent of Dungeness. A very English take on the French Riviera. As if B&Q had reproduced pastel sheds suitable for the salt air, but not big enough to stay in as a family for longer than a weekend, without knocking the thing down trying to escape dirty children, wet pants, and screwed up sheets.
Notable points of historical interest included the upper and lower lighthouses. We stayed at Old Higher Lighthouse, which dates back to 1716, and was the first true lighthouse on Portland Bill. However, it is thought that a beacon dated back to 1620. In 1923 the lighthouse became redundant and was bought by Marie Stopes, who held onto it until the 1950’s. During this time her many visitors included George Bernard Shaw, HG Wells and Thomas Hardy who came to tea with his wife.
The lower lighthouse is situated down the hill from higher lighthouse, and is bigger, taller and more Red. This is run by Trinity House, the caretakers of mariners, deep sea pilots and lighthouses in the UK. It is operated remotely and sends out a light beam 4 times every 20 seconds. The Island has a certain bleak nostalgia to it. There are not very many visitors in December, and the main pub was closed. The streets were quiet and the coastpaths almost desolate. The main thing that was going on was the local football team and the sea. If quiet reflection in a dreary and weird British resort is what you like, Portland will satisfy you. Make sure you bring your folding chair, old fishing nets and polaroid camera.