What do they feed the rabbits in Somerset?

“I’m looking for a fort. Does it look like there’s one on that hill?” We’ve come across two women in the middle of the road pouring over a map. One we conclude is the owner of the map (she’s testing a route for a local walking group). The other must be the owner of the van (entire life included) parked up in the dip, and the woman with the quest to find a fort. The map has fort marked in Gothic text on – possibly – the hill we find ourselves looking at. But Gothic means long gone, and he hill just seems to be grass and trees.

Our arrival and talking just seems to irritate the fort hunter because we’re talking walks, not forts and she can’t hear us anyway because she’s deaf. She stomps off to her van muttering something and reminds me of an eccentric country equivalent of a bag lady. An interesting past and a story-filled life, reduced to everything in a battered blue van. Her demeanor contrasted with the walker who was impeccably attired and in full make up. The only time I’ve ever worn make up when out walking was on a trip to Wales, the first outing with a mountaineering club, and I’d forgotten lip salve. I’d gone away straight from work and an event had meant I’d worn lipstick. Thus L’Oreal had to stop my lips chapping while stomping up the Welsh hillsides. It worked but I was acutely embarrassed at my faux pas. We leave them to stare at the map.

This is just part of the life experienced in our time staying in a campsite that’s as hard to find as a Roman hillfort. There doesn’t seem to be much to Batcombe Vale other than a campsite and yet there was little to say you’d arrived other than a small sign by a fence. Our satnav instructed us to ‘turn off road’, and that was it. Trusting it, we found ourselves facing a field of cows at the top of a bank with a single strip of tarmac running down its edge. The view was spectacular. You hear many tales of people blindly following digital instructions and ending up in ditches and I’ve always been scornful, and here I was, staring at a cow field and a tree filled hollow. We drive down the track.

Batcombe Vale Campsite, Somerset, is in cool camping (www.coolcamping.co.uk) and rightly so. As we got to the track’s end (and a rather tight bend) we discovered a gathering of tents huddled in the midst of the trees. The owners have created impressive spaces that are both private but have a view that isn’t someone else’s guy ropes. There’s a large area reserved running around (there was a lot of football the weekend we were there) and two lakes, one for fishing and one with rowing boats (life jackets compulsory). If you hadn’t fallen out of a tree, capsized in the lake or lost more games of football than England there was always the surrounding cowpat filled fields to explore. You could punt the kids out after breakfast and they’d be truly entertained until bedtime.

As the sun set (and this proved to be a great place to watch the sun go down) the football games ended and the campfires were lit. Gentle wafts of smoke worked through the branches and the sound of laughter and quiet conversation was the only thing to break the peace. The tranquility that descended was almost palpable.

We spent the days we were there exploring the area and villages around Batcombe: though beautiful meadows, along streams and across fields that warned us to beware of the rabbits(!). Really: what do they feed the rabbits in Somerset?

Small villages of solid stone, hardly a church and hardly a pub, in fact The Three Horseshoes’ seemed to be the only pub in the area. Many a sign pointed you in its direction and it was only a mile from the site – i.e. a ‘staggerable’ distance. And the food and drink is worth it. The treacle pudding became one of M’s highlights to the stay.

Four days felt like a week and we left sun covered and relaxed, swearing we’d be back soon. The next time we go I hope the new boiler has settled in and is heating the water for the morning showers, but a cold wash wasn’t a problem.

As we started the drive home we pass a blue van by the roadside. The fort hunter, still on her quest.

What do they feed the rabbits in Somerset?

A cautionary tale on a Salzburg mountain

Arriving at Salzburg airport has a wow factor if you like mountains (which I do). As you step out the airplane at their perfectly sized airport, perfectly in the centre of town (on the day we arrived it was also perfect weather) you are greeted with a view of the biggest local mountain. The Untersberg, which at 1,973 meters high, straddles the border of Austria and Germany and is very popular with tourists because there’s a cable car to the top and it’s only 9 miles out of town.

Two days later and we’ve taken the cable car and are standing at the top. None of us have been up this mountain before but we’re all mountain-fit and Gina has run up it. Gina runs up mountains before breakfast. We have the dog with us, the weather’s great and we have a plan that showed no signs of being silly: we walk to the summit plateau and then down a bit to the Toni Lenz hut, have lunch and then walk back up to the summit. We have a return ticket on the cable car.

The Untersberg is a lovely mountain. The views from the top are impressive and cover distant mountain ranges and a distant Salzburg. We take the obligatory photo before continuing on the path to the summit, marked with a large cross which looks odd on a clear day but is probably a good idea in snow or mist. Apparently you’re supposed to keep to the paths to avoid falling down 300 feet holes that can be hidden by bushes. I wander how that works in winter when the place is covered in snow.

We weren’t quite expecting via ferrata and it suddenly goes steep with wooden ladder steps. These descend for a while down through tunnels in the rock. Looking back when we get to the hut it’s hard to believe that the sheer slope is passable at all. Greg had to carry Sophie had she had made it clear she wasn’t the carrying kind of dog. We vetoed the return trip in favour of just going down the mountain.

It’s soon clear we have a time issue and our pace increases. For speed we diversify from the zigzag path and go straight down the fire paths, which means straight down. After about three of these our legs are screaming for something flat – but they can’t have flat. We go down more fire paths at almost running pace. After about five I’m fighting to keep my teddy in the pram but thankfully we run out of fire paths and have to zigzag. It’s not lost on me that the guy who walked the path all the way down arrives at the bottom a matter of 60 seconds after we get there.

It was a week before we could walk up and down stairs and it didn’t hurt to get up from the sofa. It would appear none of us were fit enough to do three hours in a squat position.

I would definitely do it again – with maybe a few variations:

  1. Some mountains should not be walked straight down … the bendy route at a stride is fast enough thank you.
  2. I would teach the dog to use via ferrata or to get over being carried. Or just not take her along

For an unfamiliar route I would allow more time. Mountains are to be enjoyed and not endured.

A cautionary tale on a Salzburg mountain

Why I wanted to be Milla Jovovich in the Fifth Element

When it was released in 1997 the strong female role in movies was still relatively rare. We were still fighting with the idea that woman could be both feminine and strong. I’d watched Samantha Cain ‘coming back’ in the Long Kiss Goodnight and throwing knives like a chef and Sarah Hamilton failing to be confused by time travel in Terminator but Milla Jovovich’s Leeloo character was the perfect blend of feminine and kick ass. At the time I wanted both the orange hair and the ability to punch two baddies’ lights out in one move.

It wasn’t the body. OK, maybe it was a bit. I remember coming out of seeing the movie with my then boyfriend and saying how I wished I had a body like hers. He turned to me and just said ‘you do’. It remains one of my favourite compliments although I couldn’t see it myself. Still, all these years later I find myself looking and thinking ‘did I really?’. You wouldn’t have caught me wearing a little Gaultier number because I’d have said I was too unfit but I’ve definitely missed the orange leotard chance now.

Throughout the film Leeloo watches with naïve innocence while around her the men are busy doing the patriarchal thing and trying to look after her – the Supreme Being, perfect in every way but who clearly can’t save the world without male intervention. Males who faff out of their depths and busily ignore the words ‘me protect you’ with a wry smile ‘yes, of course you will’. And then in the best scene of the movie, while all the men are busy blowing up half the ship Leeloo steps into a room full of intergalactic unsavories and dispatches all of them in balletic style, with her bare hands and barely raising a sweat. Any woman who can eat several whole chickens in a row without putting a pound on anywhere and learn Kung Fu in two seconds should, I feel, be taken more seriously.

It’s ironical that both options turn out to be exactly what happens: the war-view weary Leeloo is unable to fulfil her raison d’etre and wallows in despair until Bruce Willis declares his undying love for her. At which point she saves not just one man, but mankind. Because, clearly, that’s what you have to do to be taken seriously by the man in your life. But if the message was a more simple one of men and women needing each other was that a bad thing? After all, Bruce is looking particularly buff in the Fifth Element and even a strong woman has the right to take a break from being the strong one sometimes and share the responsibility.

Why I wanted to be Milla Jovovich in the Fifth Element

The branding of BeeBee Mey’s – part one

Do I believe in fate? Probably more than I believe in God but when I bumped into a Facebook friend four months ago I think fate was certainly smiling. We got chatting and it transpired we were going to the same place (there’s fate again). My friend was busy temping while working on a plan to open a café come bistro with a strong home-cooked food ethos. We spend the journey talking business plans and branding.

You don’t work for an accountancy company and not learn how to do thorough business plans with a water tight budget, a three-year forecast and a with host of back up evidence to prove it. Accrual accounting and financial speculation is not something I would call a forte but I surprised myself by coming up with loads of things my friend needed to think about in the first years of getting going (90% of which she was already there on so I was coming to the party a little late, but still).

I am presented with a business card as we sit on the tube and am a little disappointed to find a cutlery set as an image. It strikes me as predictable and a trite as a chef’s hat. My mind is getting all creative. I’m thinking images, font, colour, marketing plans and promotion. By this point fate is pissing herself laughing because this is just the creative adventure I thrive on.

Three months down the line and I’m drawing up logos and thinking brand guidelines. We’ve identified the feel of the business, its ethos, who we want to reach and have a range of words to describe its tone of voice. The brand has to work both large and small on a bistro awning, menu and a Twitter feed. It can’t be too childish but it can’t be too sophisticated because it’ll either alienate or look out of place. I am having a fantastic time trawling fonts and looking through my Pantone guide.

This is just the start of the journey for there’s more to a brand than the logo but it won’t survive unless people know about it. So at some point we’ll need a marketing plan and I can almost feel the sparks flying already.

Fate can kick in when you least expect it and isn’t always positive. However I am very pleased to have bumped into BeeBee Mey on Villiers Street all those months ago and I’m looking forward to the opening of BeeBee Mey’s Bistro.

The branding of BeeBee Mey’s – part one

By way of an introduction

Hello, I’m Rhiannon and by day I am an editor, proof reader and general publications professional. I have a slight obsession with branding, love words, pictures and anything creative. When I’m not dealing with the printed word I like to be outdoors, preferably with a mountain bike or hiking boots and armed with a camera.

I’ve been writing a diary for over thirty years, which means I have all those teenage rants and embarrassing thoughts in black and white (I decided black ink was a smarter colour choice than blue, so even at 13 I was making a personal brand choice). This blog is not a diary but stems from entries that would otherwise remain behind a password. Razz is a nickname I’ve had from school. I use it as a homage to my younger self who couldn’t put the pen down in the quest to note what was going on around her. Abdi is a new name for me and forms part of my surname thanks to my husband. I rather like the way it flows.

I’m not going to be talking about any one topic. You’ll find holiday write-ups, views on films, books and places I’ve been and I’m sure my interests will quickly become clear. I hope you enjoy what I have to say.

By way of an introduction