We've just come back from my favourite place, Dartmouth in Devon. Even when it's chucking it down I love it there, for so many reasons, but there are some rules which must be obeyed if you're to get the full benefit of the place:
CLOTHES: Don't dress up. You'll look like a tourist if you wear high heels or brogues because the locals and visiting snotty-yachties all sport espadrilles, ancient boat-shoes or flip-flops. If your jeans are new and hole-free, cut them off at the knees with a pair of nail-scissors (unevenly of course) and try to get them to fray. If your shins are covered in scars which look as if they could have been caused by bumping your legs against the side of your boat, so much the better, and if you haven't got one already, invest in a gold tooth, preferably one at the front. It looks very nautical.
PUB ETIQUETTE: Don't expect to get a table all to yourself in any pub as many are small and very cosy with table space at a premium. Sometimes there's live music which increases the squeeze. If you are the stand-offish type, best stay at home, because the people are very friendly and it may annoy you when total strangers constantly engage you in conversation. It's not unusual to find yourself talking to everyone in the pub at some stage and getting falling-down drunk by the end of the evening. But you will make friends and they will make sure you get home OK.
HEALTH AND SAFETY: Wear a balaclava or bee-keeper's hat at all times because there are lots of seagulls and they get to eat some very rich food (for possible perils, see previous post "Shit Happens"). Dartmouth has some fantastic restaurants, pubs, coffee shops and even a trattoria (hi everyone at Alf Resco's), but occasionally one does feel the need to scoff a bag of chips (how common) or an ice-cream on the quayside whilst watching the endlessly fascinating river scene. However, at the merest hint of a rustling paper bag you will suddenly begin to feel like a film extra from Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds" - DO NOT FEED THE SEAGULLS. Many tourists have not yet learned that this is an anti-social thing to do, as feeding anything that flies with bits of curried parsnip pasty is bound to have an especially disasterous effect.
BE CONSIDERATE: Do not stand in front of the big glass window of the very posh "New Angel" restaurant and stare through it like you are a starving vagrant. It puts people off their lunch.
LEARN TO RELAX: If you haven't got the patience to negotiate the single car's width roads in reverse to let other drivers through who are bigger or more persistent than you, the streets will drive you mad. Best to park up somewhere and leave the car locked up for your stay and do what we call the walking pub crawl, or the crawling pub walk, whichever is appropriate in your case.
SHARE YOUR WEALTH:Don't just browse in the shops, buy something, so next time you go they'll still be there.
However many Plymouth Gins or pints of Doom Bar he has had, and however curious he may be about the RN night manoeuvres which frequently occur on the River Dart, do not let your husband approach the Cadets from the Royal Naval College with the question -
"Hey, Navy-boys, was that you pissing about on the river last night?"
The outcome can be very embarrasing.