You won't get a standard holiday write-up on this blog! I'm always looking for the unusual and out-of-the-way.
Dorset is full of the odd and the quirky and the very strange. You hear for instance of the Screaming Skull of Bettiscombe (and for more information I refer you to Dark Dorset.co.uk). One of the more mundane things to see is a phallic-looking monument visible from most of the area south-west of Dorchester:
It's called the Hardy Monument, but it's not in honour of Dorset's most famous writer, Thomas Hardy. It commemorates 'Kiss Me' Hardy. This was the chap who was with Admiral Lord Nelson, the Darling and Hero of the Nation, at the Battle of Trafalgar. Trafalgar was a stupendous naval victory of the same significance as the land battle of Waterloo. Britannia absolutely ruled the waves thereafter, and all of Britain went up on a psychological high that has lasted ever since.
Hardy was at Trafalgar too, the commander of the Victory, Nelson's flagship. He was Nelson's personal friend. He was there among the grieving group that clustered around the stricken Nelson, after the Hero had been fatally wounded by a musket ball at the decisive moment in the battle. Don't take my word for it. The Monument is in the care of the Naional Trust, and on one of their information boards is this scene, and this text:
A very naughty story is told about this incident. Seeing Nelson splayed on the gundeck, but yet alive, Hardy decides to render his dear friend one last service and gets down on his knees in front of him. Conscious however of what the Nation and Posterity might say, Nelson gives him a sharp 'A kiss will do, Hardy!'.
Here's another slightly less explicit piece about Nelson and Hardy at Traflagar:
If Trafalgar happened today
"Order the signal, Hardy."
"Aye, aye sir."
"Hold on, that's not what I dictated to the signal officer. What's the meaning of this?"
"England expects every person to do his duty, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, religious persuasion or disability. What gobbledygook is this?"
"Admiralty policy, I'm afraid, sir. We're an equal opportunities employer now. We had the devil's own job getting 'England' past the censors, lest it be considered racist."
"Gadzooks, Hardy. Hand me my pipe and tobacco."
"Sorry sir. All naval vessels have been designated smoke-free working environments."
"In that at case, break open the rum ration. Let us splice the mainbrace to steel the men before battle."
"The rum ration has been abolished, Admiral. It’s part of the Government's policy on binge drinking."
"Good heavens, Hardy. I suppose we'd better get on with it. Full speed ahead."
"I think you'll find that there's a 4 knot speed limit in this stretch of water."
"Damn it man! We are on the eve of the greatest sea battle in history. We must advance with all dispatch. Report from the crow's nest, please."
"That won't be possible, sir."
"Health and safety have closed the crow's nest, sir. No harness. And they said that rope ladder doesn't meet regulations. They won't let anyone up there until a proper scaffolding can be erected."
"Then get me the ship's carpenter without delay, Hardy."
"He's busy knocking up a wheelchair access to the fo'c'sle Admiral."
"Wheelchair access? I've never heard anything so absurd."
"Health and safety again, sir. We have to provide a barrier-free environment for the differently abled."
"Differently abled? I've only one arm and one eye and I refuse even to hear mention of the word. I didn't rise to the rank of admiral by playing the disability card."
"Actually, sir, you did. The Royal Navy is under-represented in the areas of visual impairment and limb deficiency."
"Whatever next? Give me full sail. The salt spray beckons."
"A couple of problems there too, sir. Health and safety won't let the crew up the rigging without crash helmets. And they don't want anyone breathing in too much salt - haven't you seen the adverts?"
"I've never heard such infamy. Break out the cannon and tell the men to stand by to engage the enemy."
"The men are a bit worried about shooting at anyone, Admiral."
"What? This is mutiny."
"It's not that, sir. It's just that they're afraid of being charged with murder if they actually kill anyone. There's a couple of legal aid lawyers on board, watching everyone like hawks."
"Then how are we to sink the Frenchies and the Spanish?"
"Actually, sir, we're not."
"No, sir. The Frenchies and the Spanish are our European partners now. According to the Common Fisheries Policy, we shouldn't even be in this stretch of water. We could get hit with a claim for compensation."
"But you must hate a Frenchman as you hate the devil."
"I wouldn't let the ship's diversity co-ordinator hear you saying that sir. You'll be up on disciplinary."
"You must consider every man an enemy who speaks ill of your King."
"Not any more, sir. We must be inclusive in this multicultural age. Now put on your Kevlar vest; it's the rules."
"Don't tell me - health and safety. Whatever happened to rum, sodomy and the lash?"
"As I explained, sir, rum is off the menu. And there's a ban on corporal punishment."
"What about sodomy?"
"I believe it's to be encouraged, sir."
"In that case, kiss me, Hardy."
Neither of these were from the National Trust information board, I hasten to say.
Nelson was a successful man, a brilliant and bold commander, charismatic, worshipped by his men, and attractive to both sexes alike. It's a bit unfair perhaps that the only well-known reason for remembering Hardy is that he kissed his dying friend farewell.
Still, the Monument is splendid. It's made of Portland stone and will probably last for a thousand years, long after the Victory finally crumbles to dust. You can go up inside to the top:
I was there a couple of weeks too early. A pity! As an NT Life member I could have gone up free, and when I last looked I was over sixteen. The view would have been wonderful on such a clear and sunny afternoon. Just what you'd see from a crow's nest, in fact. I could have sent the word that the enemy had sailed into view.