Friday, October 21, 2005

Cooden Beach

I take my training really seriously, so in the morning I was back on the treadmill. Same nice view as the day before, still no sign of Mr. Caine. But next to me on the other treadmill was the living proof that regular exercise is good for you! We got talking and when he told me that he had just turned 70, I almost catapulted myself off the machine by coming to an abrupt and complete standstill. Very embarrassing! But he looked at least 10 years younger, the fit image only slightly disturbed by a bit of a belly. He walks at least 5 miles every day and I bet he also works out. He was not a hotel guest but a resident in Chelsea harbour. In his own words, this meant that you could become a member of the hotel’s fitness club, if you could afford it. I guess, if you can afford to live in that part of the city, the fee for the gym is peanuts to you. I was not too impressed with the fitness club. He agreed and called it “pathetic” for a hotel of this size. Well, I would just have called it "very small".

Around lunch time I took the train from Victoria to a place called Cooden Beach on the Sussex coast. The train takes about two hours but only because it stops at every lamp post along the way. Cooden Beach is on the outskirts of Bexhill-on-Sea, which I did not see too much of but it looked like your typical English seaside town. In the summer this place must be heaving with tourists but around this time of year it is pretty quite.

I had booked a walking holiday with Countrywide Holidays (“leading the way for walkers”). I enjoy walking but do not like to do so on my own. Since I increasingly seem to have to take my holidays when none of my friends do, I decided to try out one of these organised trips. I did not really expect much from it and reckoned that if it turned out to be awful at least it was only a couple of days long and I would survive that. The walks were categorised as leisurely to moderate, so I expected the average age of the group to be around 70. (It was probably more around 60.)

The hotel was right next to the train station and after the luxury of the night before it was a bit of a disappointment. But any hotel would have been. At the reception I suddenly heard very heavy German accent right next to me. Instant dislike! I had not come all this way to meet Germans. Had I wanted that I would have gone for a walk in the Black Forrest.

When I asked the receptionist for Internet access, I was told that the next one was in Hastings, which is not exactly short walking distance. Well, at least my room had a television for my evening entertainment. I am so easy to please.

I was told that the group would meet in the lobby at 6:30 pm, which gave me a couple of hours to explore the neighbourhood.

So I went for a walk along the pebbled beach. The sound of the waves and the smell of the sea reconciled me with Cooden Beach, the hotel and life in general. It did not rain but it was quite windy, especially when I turned back.

In the lobby at 6:30. Shock, horror! The German guy from the reception turned out to be my guide. His name was Jochen and he had been living in England for about 25 years. He still sounded like Ltd Gruber from ‘Allo ‘Allo! The rest of the group was from the UK. Everyone seemed (and turned out to be) very nice and easy-going. I was actually despite Jochen looking forward to the walks.

Over the couple of days my eating habits were turned upside down. I normally have a coffee in the morning, my main meal at lunch time and a sandwich in the evening. Now I was eating a three course dinner, which combined with the coastal climate made me very very tired. I nearly fell asleep watching Friday nights with Jonathan Ross. But I fought hard to stay awake to see Robbie Williams perform some of his nwe songs live (liked them). Well, whom I really wanted to see was Stephen Duffy, who has apparently now become a permanent member of the Robbie Williams band. He looked uncomfortable like he wished he was somewhere else. Should I feel sorry for him? If he is not enjoying the media attention he is getting now, he will hate it soon. Because it is going to get worse and people start recognising him in the streets.

Then finally sleep, sleep, sleep…


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