'How many times?' I asked him as we passed by the family's preferred hotel (now too expensive for the Hodmandod purse), Sentry Mead.
'Here, nine times,' he said, 'then before that we went to ...'
Nine times! I suggested we paid them a visit - surely they'd remember such a faithful customer - but he demurred making the feeble excuse that it was probably under new management.
However the true goal of our visit to Totland was not just so HS could reminisce but because we wanted to go up to the high land above the village and the bay where the woodland soon peters out to a grassy place called Headon Warren.
Here the chalky soil beneath supports just grasses, heathers and gorse - ideal for rabbits - but also attractive to bronze age man as being the ideal loaction for a burial mound. Of course in Wales these are more impressive (as most things are) and have huge stones on top and are called cromlechs (as described in an earlier post) but in England you have to settle for this, which is called a barrow.
They were made in the bronze age as elaborate tombs for important people and this one was made about 1500 years BC. The footpath used to lead through the centre but this wore things down too much so now you are asked to walk around the side. The photo shows as close as we could get - with this woman on it to show scale. The barrow was first excavated in 1817 by Rev John Skinner - but when he started to dig he discovered that someone else had been there before him - possibly King Henry III who seems to have been so desperate for cash that in 1237 investigated all mounds in his kingdom for treasure. Then, in the following century, it was used as a site for a beacon.
There are two smaller mounds in the fields below.
It is pretty this time of year with the purple heather in bloom, but is even more impressive in August when the yellow gorse adds its colour too. But the views are good most of the year with the famous white cliffs leading out to the Needles lighthouse.
We returned via the small Totland beach with its groynes to discourage erosion...
and small collection of beach huts (The earlier Hodmandods used to hire out one of these and HS assures me they are fully equipped with toilet, small sink and stove) and back to the modern day, or at least Edwardian times, I would guess, and the large family homes now converted into hotels.
For a long time HS stood and looked. I suppose he was looking back at his past. The view of the field he used to see from his hotel window is now full of houses; and there used to be a bowling green and not such a high hedge and of course there used to be his father, his mother and his sister, but now there are the four of us. It is always strange to come back, especially to something last seen as a child. People come and go and leave a little of themselves behind - bricks, mortar or perhaps a mound of mud.