Holidays are funny things aren't they. All the planning and build up for a special time away, and it's over so, so quickly. When we got back, without knowing it, we were facing a very difficult week, but one that also had some unexpected high points. We came back on the Sunday, but had taken Monday off as well, as the van had to go in for it's MOT. We have had it for six years now, and the most it's failed on before has been a worn windscreen wiper, which isn't bad for a vehicle that generally finds itself ignored. This time however there was a phone call from the garage to give me the bad news. Wheel bearing, bonnet lock, something electrical to do with the throttle, front breaks (although the screeching noise on holiday gave me a hint to this one), and various bulbs. Altogether nearly £700.
Whilst away, and enjoying a cold drink in an exquisite little cafe, a phone call from son-in-law to inform me that during his mowing of one of our properties, the brand new mower started to make a loud knocking noise, and so, attempting to pigeon hole that one until I got back, suggested simply to swap it for the slightly older one for now.....sorted. Tuesday came, and the working week began, and all went well, although a little uninspiringly, until that is one of the residents of the property I was working on came up to me to inform me that a stone had been flicked up from the strimmer, and smashed his window. I hadn't heard it due to the ear mufflers, but there it was, all thirty six glorious square feet of broken glass. I carry the phone number of an emergency repairers just in case, as this happens occasionally, and left a smiling customer waiting for the repair to be carried out. Not sure how much the bill will be, I expect upwards of £500....ugh! As for the mower, I took it to the local mower shop that I use, they took the engine apart to find out why there was a bullet shaped hole in the crankcase, and discovered that on manufacture someone had left a tiny part loose in the crankcase that had been thrown up by the moving parts when the mower was tilted, and so happy days, a brand new engine fitted there and then for free! The other bit of good news is that the owners of the house in Sandbanks came home while we were away, and were delighted with what we had done to their front garden, and so big relief there and cheques in the bank.
All this is just a quick catch up of the week just gone, now let's relax and go on holiday again. The morning arrived, and we firstly headed for an early morning walk along our own beach, and then a swim before setting off. We always take a good chunk of our CD collection with us when going away, and pick stuff out that's good to drive and sometimes sing to as we go. So on that note, here's the first of just three of the songs, so listen, relax, and let's head to the north east coast of Norfolk.
We don't rush, and six hours later arrived at the campsite, set up tent, got the barbecue out and cracked open a bottle of wine. Nothing else planned other than to relax after the journey.
Next morning, our first full day, and after visiting the local delicatessen for some picnic provisions we set off for Felbrigg Hall. Apart from amazing sculptures, a magnificent house, and wonderfully inspiring gardens, it has what I have to say are the best herbaceous borders that so far I have ever seen. They are huge, and the picture really doesn't do them justice. We were half way along to take this picture, and wanted to get the gardener in the shot, although he tried ever so sweetly to hide himself when we aimed the camera his way.
There is a walled kitchen garden, with an original pigeon coup to one side. Rather than the estate managing the garden, as is most often the case, here they operate an allotment scheme, and each plot is worked slightly differently. The effect is quite beautiful, and unique. Peacocks roam freely, and we smiled to each other as we kept coming across this group of four elegant ladies. They were always clustered together, chattering away to one another, walking in a line like ducks, and dressed in bright peacock like colours. It was lovely to see such ladies taking the trouble to don such lovely summer dresses, and enjoy themselves in a place like this. As with many other kitchen gardens from days gone by, the central pool would have been used to fill watering cans, and everything laboriously watered by hand. I think our allotment can be difficult done this way, but the gardener's who used to tend such places had it so much tougher.
We had a lovely morning wandering the grounds, albeit very hot, and decided to find the shade of a tree to have our picnic before heading into the house itself for the hottest part of the day. Cold local beer and elderflower cordial, fresh dressed crab, ripe red tomatoes and strawberries were just some of the things on the menu.
By five o clock we were all done in, and headed back to the van, via the shop of course. Do we walk away with the usual gifts in hand such as fudge with the house logo, nope, we come away with a blanket and a couple of Salvia patens 'Patio Sky Blue'.
We had a couple of beach days, and on one of them headed to the shingle spit that leads to Blakeney Point. The spit is long, and it was a really hot and sunny day.
We had once again taken a picnic, and as soon as we parked the van, set off along the spit. The end is closed to the public, as it's a nature reserve and home to breeding common and grey seals, and terns.
Half way along, the shingle trekking was taking it's toll, and so we crashed out for lunch and a nap.
Pebbles as far as the eye can see, and I found this large and rather strangely shaped piece of flint, which went into my rucksack for the walk back later.
The area of Norfolk that we were based in had a lovely coastal road to drive along, and village after village to explore. This particular one called Stiffkey (pronounced Stukey), caught our attention because of it's rather special antique shop. Inside were two floors with walls lined with illuminated glass cabinets full of beautiful door furniture and lighting from the past. We shall have to return when we have a little more money to spend, but in the meantime placated ourselves with a cold drink in the cafe/village shop/post office on the opposite side of the road. It was while seated where I am now that the phone call from son-in-law about the mower rattling came.
And another song from the journey.......
We sing along to this little number, so if you are interested I can send a recording through the post!
We explored a windmill during one drive, and found an antique cup and saucer, along with a rather nice Bristol blue wine glass on another, and on another day headed to one of our favourite gardens, East Ruston Old Vicarage. Alan and Graham, the owners and creators of this extraordinary place, really do have that special something needed to make not just a good garden, but somewhere that feeds the soul as well.
As we walked around, we remembered drifting through this Silver Birch walk on a previous visit, when all was still new and unformed properly.
This was a new addition, and something that caught my eye in particular. I have always had a thing about formal gardens, and just found it's simplicity lovely.
By now it was the middle of the afternoon, and uncomfortably hot. We came upon the sunken rose garden, and while Amanda strolled quietly in her own thoughts, I found this little fellow enjoying the peace and coolness of a little arbour covered in climbing roses. He delighted in strokes and cuddles, and after far too long in his company, we left the best of friends. He gave me the impression that everyone left the best of friends with him.
There is just far too much in these stunning gardens to put on here, but the owners have created pocket after pocket, and vista after vista of gardens very special indeed.
One such place is simply an area put over to wild flowers. On a previous visit there was a light scattering of red poppies in addition to the blue and yellow, but even without them the effect was so simple, yet breathtaking.
We last saw this fountain just after it was installed, and still had it's copper colour to the pipework. Over time, and with the effects of constant wetness, the copper has blackened, and in my opinion is one of the most beautiful and graceful fountains I have seen.
Alas, another glorious day came to an end, and did we come away with a bar of fudge with the gardens logo on it's wrapper? Heck no, more plants. This time three red Lupins, three blue Lupins. three yellow Leucanthemums and a Tibouchina. Just as well we have a van eh?
Our evenings back at the campsite are usually spent by firstly cooking a late meal, either on the barbecue, or on a stove. Hot, sweet tea is of course in abundance, as gardeners cannot survive without it!
Nowadays, amidst the sea of gleaming white motorhome monstrocities, one can feel a little conspicuous in a tent, such is the camping life now, but we don't care, and surround ourselves with gaudy beach windbreaks, and adorn the outside of the tent with plants that have collected.
As darkness sets in, we light lots of candles, don warm extra layers, crack open the malt whisky, and play backgammon. When I say play, what I really mean is that I try my hardest not to sulk while Amanda thrashes me. I should at this point explain that I love my gorgeous wife dearly, and we support each other in ways that even now can leave me spellbound, but when the backgammon/scrabble comes out she changes into a dark and vengeful woman. She is incredibly smart, so much so that victory means nothing to her, and time and time again I am left not just defeated, but feeling a lesser man. She can't play chess and wants me to teach her, but maybe I will keep this one vestige of my manhood intact!
For our last day we had booked ourselves onto a boat that goes out to the seal colony on Blakeney Point. It was still sunny, but a little cooler.
And I have rarely seen my wife look more rested, happy and content.
The seals look pretty chilled too, with little else to do but swim, eat and sunbathe on the sand. Just beyond them is the North Sea, and when the boat passed from harbor to that, the wildness of the water kicked in big time.
I really enjoyed our time away, from all of the adventures, to simply watching Amanda shell hunt from my sunbathing patch. That's her between my knees in the distance.
It seems a million miles away now, but let me leave you with one of my favourite songs.