Dorchester, the Fascinating County Town of Dorset – Unexpected Serendipity

By Nasser Tufail

Bournemouth and its ‘microclimate’

When we first moved to Bournemouth, a coastal resort town on the south coast of England, one of our neighbors, with a great sense of humor, asked, “Why on earth would a person of sane mind and still relatively young move from Southern California to ‘God’s Waiting Room’? –unless you’ve come for the weather”?

To which I replied, “Actually, I DID consider Bournemouth’s ‘microclimate’, George… it’s warmer and sunnier than the rest of UK, isn’t it?”

And he promptly came back with, “Warmer and sunnier are relative terms, you know – a degree and a half warmer than the national average is still quite cold, and 5 days of extra sunshine doesn’t mean the rest of the year is not wet!”

River Stour and picturesque walking trails

George, my go-to person for all things Dorset, was of course pulling my leg, and alluding to Bournemouth’s past reputation as the retirement capital of England and the city with the highest number of nursing homes. But that has definitely changed over the years and I think it’s a charming city, of which we have nothing but fond memories.

I still miss my daily walks along picturesque trails by River Stour just minutes away from our house. The tranquil meadows, hedgerows and woodland are home to beautiful birds like, kingfishers, greenfinches and swans. We saw hundreds of flowering plants on our walks. These photos are proof.

Looking for a Publisher

In Bournemouth, my wife wanted to publish her first book, ‘Con Yanci: When Chickens Fly and Other Tales’, and was looking around for a printer. George’s wife, Margaret, referred her to a notable one in Dorchester – a company called Henry Ling Limited.

The Trip to Dorchester

One day when we’re out and about, we decide to drive to Dorchester and check out Henry Ling Printing. We call to check if we can pop in without an appointment, as we are in the area. The receptionist says they’ll be happy to accommodate us.

We are greeted by a very gracious gentleman who made us feel right at home,. After exchanging a few pleasantries, I ask him if he could give us a bit of background about the company and their services. In his typical polite and oh-so proper English manner, he says: “Well, first I should like to inform you that we are one of the oldest printers in England and have been here at this same location for over 140 years!”

Wow, I think to myself, that’s quite impressive.

He continues: “And, you might be interested to know that Thomas Hardy, who lived in Dorchester for some time, walked through the same door you walked through and some of his books were published by us. Have you read, The Dynasts? It is very probable that he sat here in this very room where you are sitting now.”

I am totally blown away as my unimagined ‘Holy Smokes’ moment arrives. Not quite sure how to respond while the revelation is still sinking in my head, I sheepishly mutter, “Oh, Thomas Hardy, as in Tess of the d’Urbervilles, which I read in high school”. I try to hide my mortification for having even asked about the company’s background.

Indeed. Actually you can visit the cottage where he was born, right here in Dorchester. It’s less than a 10 minute drive from where we are”, he says, hoping to leverage the Thomas Hardy cachet for our business as he points to the cottage’s location on a map!

So, just for the historical significance of the printers, Selma decides to have her book printed by Henry Ling Printing in Dorchester!

Shortly after leaving the printing company, I stand in front of the cottage where Thomas Hardy was born. Four decades earlier, when I was reading Tess, I couldn’t have imagined that I’d get to see the place which inspired him to write. His novels are full of repressive Victorian social restrictions and hypocrisy; the double standards that made it perfectly acceptable for men to be sexually experienced but an unpardonable sin for Tess to be in the same situation.

Hardy’s Cottage in Dorchester

I think Tess of the d’Urbervilles is to the English, what Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary is to the French and Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina is to the Russians – themes of sexual encounters, challenge to societal norms, infidelity, carnal desires and passion.

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Click here for more of Nasser Tufail’s musings: Through the Looking Glass at Lyndhurst – Unexpected Serendipity

Nasser Tufail

Nasser Tufail grew up in Pakistan and after finishing his secondary education at a boarding school, moved to the USA where he completed his undergraduate and graduate studies. After working in aviation and IT for such companies as Boeing, McDonnell Douglas and IBM, he ventured out on his own and founded two IT companies involved in Business Intelligence/analytics and Supply Chain Execution. He sold his stake in the businesses and took early retirement to travel and see the enchanting world.

Nasser has lived in 6 countries and travelled extensively to scores of others in Europe, Asia, Middle East, Africa and Latin America. He currently resides with his lovely wife and best friend, Selma, on the Costa del Sol in Spain.

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