I always get a bit anxious before traveling. Will people treat me poorly? Should I present as a girl (or a boy) to try to pass as a cis person? These anxieties are particularly present when I’m going to a new place that is in a not-so-urban environment. The area I grew up in in the rural Midwest often wasn’t a particularly friendly place to be visibly different. I often worry that new places I visit will be similarly hostile.
In order to do research for the novel I am working on, I booked a trip to Charmouth and Lyme Regis on the Jurassic Coast. I found a reasonably priced Air BnB hosted by a local paddle board instructor and physical trainer and set off on the train on a Sunday afternoon. I love traveling, and the ease of getting around on public transport in England is a treat after living for most of my life in the US, where a car is necessary to get to almost anywhere, particularly if you want to escape the concrete jungle. An added perk is that other travellers tend to more or less ignore you here, which suits me just fine.
I brought along embarrassingly hipster snacks (hummus and Wonky™ carrots) and used the journey to catch up on some reading. I learned it was Father’s Day in the UK via a conversation some of my fellow passengers were having. On the platform outside my window at one station a young Caucasian man in a striped shirt held a Corgi in his arms like a baby. It felt as if he was anxious to take his place in the ranks of fatherdom, but not for, like, an actual baby. The dog looked uncomfortable. It’s face and posture read ‘I am suffering a great indignity’, (as if simply standing on it’s stubby little legs weren’t enough) while the man chatted to a girl with her hair in two plats. She alternated between paying attention to whatever he was saying and pulling faces at the poor dog. It was as if the scene in which the baby turns into a pig in Alice in Wonderland was being reenacted. ‘Mooooooore pepper!’ I imagined him screaming while the Corgi struggled to get free.
I disembarked in Dorchester, where I had a little wander around the Dinosaur Museum (£8.50 entry) before catching the X51 bus to Charmouth. The museum’s collection includes ‘Dina’, the Cotythosaurus from a 1974 episode of Dr Who, ‘Invasion of the Dinosaurs’, and strange display about Mary Anning. Mary seems to be preparing to be partially crushed under the weight of a landslip, head cocked to one side, a look of resignation on her face. There are lots of interactive bits for the kids, but not a whole lot of impressive stuff for me as an adult who has been visiting a lot of museums.
After grabbing a delicious cask brew at the Convivial Rabbit–a quaint, friendly micropub–I hopped on an ancient First Group bus. Before I knew it we were deep in a cloud, unable to see more than a car length ahead of us through fields of sheep and patches of forest.
It was lucky for everyone that I was sat at the front of the top deck of the bus, helping to guide us safely to Charmouth. My first experience of the Jurassic Coast town on a hill was disembarking from the bus and climbing up out of the mist towards what might optimistically be called a bluish sky.
The woman running the Air BnB (and her adorable terrier mutt puppy) greeted me warmly and with much enthusiastic barking. Other than not being able to get pub food on a Sunday after 7:00, everything was lovely, and my fears about traveling while queer in rural southern England proved to be unnecessary.
To be continued…