A few weeks ago, Alistair and I had a jaunt. But not any old jaunt, oh no. We actually had a night away from The Blondies. My mum was staying with us, and talk had turned to birthday presents (it’s my misfortune to have a birthday three days before Christmas). I was being my usual helpful self with suggestions – ‘Dunno. Can’t think of anything I want. Umm. Cash?’ – when out of nowhere a thought dropped into my head.
A night away.
It was the middle of half term, the house was a tip, The Blondies were being lovely, but seemed permanently hungry and under my feet… A night away. That is exactly what I need. And Alistair too. He’s had all manner of crap to deal with at work lately, not to mention trying to cope with me spectacularly losing the plot for a few weeks. A little break from the daily routine could only be a good thing.
So we booked a room at The Pigs. And one blustery Thursday morning, having taken The Blondies to school, we set off for North Norfolk, my favourite place in the world. It might not have the dramatic scenery of the Peak District, or the breathtaking vistas of The Lakes. It’s not even as well known as the Norfolk Broads (secret Norfolk insider knowledge – The Broads are actually quite dull, and not many Norfolkers visit them), but it has a quiet, enchanting beauty to it that I adore. Plus, it’s where I spent many happy hours as a child, and that always tends to draw one back to places.
I say it was blustery. It was a bit more than that. We stopped just outside Sheringham for a walk, and got blown back to the car within three minutes of setting off. Sod it, we decided. Let’s go and sit in a pub for a bit. So we found a pub on the front in Sheringham, Alistair had a pint of shandy and I had a pint of zoiderrrr (something about ordering a pint of Aspall’s never fails to make me break out into a Zummmmerrrrrsett accent). At one point I ventured outside for a cigarette and quickly saw the error of my ways. Just getting the cigarette alight was a major victory. What I hadn’t accounted for was that the wind was now so squally it was able to infiltrate my coat and whip it up over my head – even though it was done up - along with my skirt so that the (blessedly few) passersby were treated to prolonged views of my underwear. Not to mention that there is nothing, nothing, between North Norfolk and the North Pole, so I was bloody freezing, even without my coat making a break for freedom.
Sod it, we decided once more. Let’s stay here and have some lunch. And another pint. Or rather, another point of zoiderrr. All very lovely. And then, because we had an hour or so to kill before we could check in at The Pigs, we drove off into the countryside with the intention of completely lost. There is nowhere quite so enchanting to be lost in as rural Norfolk. I know what people like to say about this county – ‘Very flat’. Is it bollocks. In some parts maybe, but not where we were, driving along narrow, twisting country lanes, not another soul in sight, rolling hills and trees decked out in autumnal reds and oranges, me ‘singing’ (caterwauling might be a better description) along to Haim and The National. We drove through villages that even I, a Norfolk native, had never heard of, villages that seemed to have a Brigadoonish quality to them, half glimpsed before being a smudge in the rear view mirror.
Alistair was uncharacteristically quiet and a bit down in the dumps. Because he had a raging cold which was making him snort up industrial quantities of snot every few seconds (this was getting on my nerves quite a lot). He was also doing that weak eyes, choked voice, and pained face thing that men tend to do when they’re ‘feeling a bit bleurgh’. I, however, was bouncing off my seat, bopping along in time to the music, giggling and generally feeling marvellous. No school run! No cooking dinner! No refereeing arguments between The Blondies! No torturous bedtime routine! We can legitimately have a late night! No need for a morning alarm clock! Yay!
And then it was three o’clock. And time for us to arrive at The Pigs.