Our Travel blog
Tuesday 19 July
There comes a point when rest and recuperation intrude on what have essentially been a few days of rest and recuperation. Thus we did even less today than usual, and elected to sit in the shade and read and drink tea while our washing dried. It was glorious, sunny with a hint of sea breeze and the aroma of sheets drying to a crisp. Anything bright, like a yellow tee shirt, or Alison, became covered in tiny black bugs, tarmac on the road melted and the only movement under the midday sun was the occasional bird flapping lazily overhead. Colours were washed out; as if the landscape had faded with the rest of the laundry.
Around 4pm we strolled to the sea. Even then the air was still and a haze hung over the countryside around us, making the fields wave without any breeze. Down on the beach the air was fresher and smelled of ozone and the sweet tang of drying seaweed left stranded by the receding tide.
I stripped off to only my shorts (easy ladies…) and waded in, enjoying a cheerful swim in the cool waters, diving under the rich camouflage green saltwater and popping up amidst jelly fish. Now, I’ve swum in the sea plenty of times and don’t mind the odd small one but these were big buggers and taking evasive action only increased the chances of brushing into another, so like the brave little soldier I am I flapped for the shore and emerged less like Daniel Craig in James Bond and more like a silent film of Oliver Hardy running into the sea played backwards. I scuttled up to Alison who was emerging from her cocoon of towels in which she had changed into something skimpy, and advised her of the situation.
Thus she just enjoyed a paddle and happily (for me) spotted a few jelly fish to verify my tales of heroic struggles on the Hemsby foreshore with these beasts of the sea and my eventual cunning escape to dry land for tea and medals.
The only task now awaiting me was to change out of my sopping shorts. Other people on the beach don’t seem to have trouble with this. They wrap a towel around their midriff and 30 seconds later whip it aside to reveal a pair of pristine swimming shorts with everything tucked in, cord tied and the clothes they’ve removed neatly folded on the floor in front of them. I wrapped the towel around me, managing to do it up in such a way that the split down the side revealed my entire right leg up to my armpit. With a bit of jiggling I secured it more modestly and set about removing my wet shorts under it. This is of course entirely impossible. After much cursing and cheeky glimpses of white flesh to anyone unwise enough to be watching, I found I’d hopped and staggered a quarter of a mile up the beach. In the distance I heard Alison explain to a passing stranger that I was still affected by the tide on dry land.
Now bent double with one leg out and one in and my free hand clutching the towel I found most of the beach was stuck to my legs, making every movement feel like I was being caressed with sand paper. In an effort to secure the towel I reached in and grabbed what I thought was one end of the bit I’d knotted and realised that it wasn’t, and I now had a firm grip on a part of my anatomy that a gentleman shouldn’t grip on a public beach. Letting go I made a grab for the towel, stepped free of the shorts and stood upright still holding the towel and set off on my long journey back to Alison, who I noticed was now wearing dark glasses and pretending not to be with me.
At this point I’d like to apologise to the nice family whose lingering memory of their fortnight in Hemsby may well be the sight of my pale buttocks waddling away since the knot in the towel had twisted round to the back, framing them like curtains in a theatre. Alison kindly pointed out that I was lucky no one was on the beach looking for a place to park their bike.
We walked back to Mavis and took dinner there. I spent the entire evening in dark glasses hoping that the police weren’t out looking for the strange man from the beach.
Wednesday 20 July
Alison smuggled me across the border into Suffolk so I mercifully escaping custody and entry on some kind of register. We stopped at a 1950’s style dinner, one of many independent restaurants we’ve seen on our travels trying to bring life back to former Little Chef premises. It was spotlessly clean, the staff cheerful and attentive, although with only a few customers the ratio of staff to clientele was almost 1:1 and the food good, if on the pricy side. I had possibly the worst meal I’ve ever had, at least one not prepared by my mother, in a Little Chef so I applaud anywhere that is trying to usurp them. On the occasion in question I knew as soon as I sat down and my arms stuck to the table that I should have left immediately. The waitress tossed a menu on my table, a duplicate of the one I was reading so quite why I never discovered. Maybe in case I vomited on one. The whole place was dirty and unkempt, spiders had colonised the rafters and insects feasted on the debris around the skirting. I considered curious white marks on the carpet and concluded that they may have been from the staff trying to scuff out the chalk outline the forensic department left around a previous customer.
The food was so late I asked for it in a take away box as I needed to be elsewhere. Thus the waitress, who I christened Adolf on account of her clear hatred of humanity, and her moustache, dumped what may have once been a vegi-burger in front of me. In its short journey from the kitchen it had come completely apart in a box far too big for it, and now sat forlornly in an ooze of mayonnaise, limp lettuce and stale bun. It brought to mind the stage in an operation when the surgeon turns to the nurse and informs her that there’s nothing further they can do for this one except make him comfortable so let’s stitch him up and get him back to the ward.
It also arrived without the promised chips so I interrupted Adolf on her way to fetch more phials of botulism and enquired after their whereabouts. 10 minutes later she delivered them on a plate. I wondered if I was allowed to take the plate with them on in my car so, not wanting to disturb Adolf again in case I too became a chalk outline I went to the lady on the till and pointed out the idiosyncrasy of a takeaway in which half is served on a china plate and half in a box. Her face appeared to melt with concentration as she struggled with this delicate conundrum. It was like I had asked her to explain quantum theory in return for a tip. How difficult was it to grasp? She did offer to put them into the box with the burger until I opened it. She actually recoiled.
After some negotiation I was given a separate box for my chips, and made to pay. For everything. Short of time and patience and frankly rather scared of Adolf lurking in the background I paid up and ceremoniously dumped the box containing the burger into the bin beside the till. The chips were awful too.
Sorry, I got rather carried away there. Meanwhile, back on our travels we left the dinner, fatter and poorer, and made our way to Cambridge.
Thursday 21 July
We returned to Cambridge to attend the wedding of Alison’s best friend’s mother and her beau. It was a sunny day, we all scrubbed up well, the service was lovely, people smiled and joked, fawned over the happy couple and there was love and affection in the air.
The reception was an afternoon tea in a Cambridge college and it was wonderful. I didn’t seem to wear too much food and mercifully managed to eat a meringue without my dining companions ending up resembling snow-capped Alps.
Afterwards we wandered around the college library and along the corridors looking at sepia pictures of former students at work. They all looked earnest and determined, serious and slightly sinister. Quite a contrast from the vivid colour photos on the student’s noticeboard of eager young people doing their best to look fun and engaging to draw you into their society. The college seemed to be composed of the sort of people I avoided at school. The joiners, the people who for curious reasons I could never fathom didn’t just attend school but actually enjoyed it and became part of its fabric. Then again they ended up going to Cambridge University and I went to Colchester School of Nursing so I suppose the difference today is that they live in big houses with big burdens and I live in a motorhome. And no amount of money could make me trade places.
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