It were an overcast day.....East Anglia Part 1
01.04.2017 - 04.04.2017 16 °C
The flight out of Italy was a flurry of Italian and English, constantly switching back and forth, as they do in Europe, exhorting us to do all of those things like grabbing the mask, breathing oxygen - even it seems there isn't any; inflating our jackets AFTER leaving the plane, but don't forget the SPECIALS - this is after all Ryan Air and for only £3 you can get four, not three scratchies. Honestly how these bilingual champions cope is beyond us. Oh and an extra mention to the head waiter - sorry on a plane is he called the purser? No that's what he does with his lips, steward perhaps? Whatever, he was the only person I have ever heard who was capable of reducing the Italian language to quiet urbanity. A marvellous, if somewhat indistinct effort.
The Alps just seemed to get bigger and more impressive as we flew on. They were still covered with snow at their peaks, although here and there you could see zig zagging tracks laid down by some intrepid climbers who had braved their way up. Fortunately we climbed up and up and so finally breasted the cloud cover, beneath which Ian suspected the mountains might just peek out and snag the plane's underbelly. It wasn't to be though and we passed into that quiet rumbly space where sleep comes more easily. It was only a flight of a couple of hours though and before long we began our descent over those green, green fields of home, which Tom Jones goes on about so regularly. The patchwork quilt of England unfolded below us, replete with small villages filled with impossibly pretty dolls houses, grouped into charming villages.
London Stansted was a breeze to negotiate for Ian. It is interesting to note in passing that automation continues apace. No human interaction was required as he passed through passport control. British passport holders stood at the gates until the lights turned green and then stepped forward to allow the machines to scan passports, faces and decide their acceptability. On their mute approval he passed into Blighty. It was a different story for Cath however, who spent 15 minutes with a very nice but inquistive passport control lady recounting each and every step of our tour to date, and then had to provide a short lesson on how to give up work and travel the world. Finally we collected our baggage and walked out into England and the Car Rentals Bus, collected our car from the rental agency, where to be honest the car rental guy had possibly less personality than the aforementioned machines, and were on our way. British passports obviously still have their advantages in some parts of the world...
"If there's a bustle in your hedgerow" we sang as we trundled down the backroads to our lodgings: The Manor House, Herringswell, no less. England really is speccy. It turns on the charm immediately; little villages, green fields, racing cars on small freeways, mysterious forrest glades, narrow lanes and of course, did we mention the hedgerows? We got lost of course, but finally located our new home for the next month and were both totally blown away. This is a Manor House from god knows how long ago, but you can be sure at least that your great-great grandfather was in shorts, if not a hessian nappy, when it was built. As they say in these parts, "'Nuff Said."
We were met in the parking area by Heather and George who were to show us into the apartment and get us settled. They kindly suggested that we should head off to the nearest village, Tuddenham, if we were after dinner. Heather recommended the Tuddenham Mill, mentioned in the Doomsday book and "quite a bit nicer than pub; which is a bit rough and ready". We decided that getting dressed and sorted for a restaurant was a bit beyond our capabilities and headed straight for the pub, The White Hart, Tuddenham. Heather had clearly misjudged us, we found the pub to be a charming, typically English pub and were welcomed by Paul and his wife for a couple of pints, some good pub grub and a chat. After a short while the local cricket club turned up to host their, April Fool's Day Quiz and we were invited to join in, however we decided on an early night and just as well after sitting in on round one we would have been 0/10!
We had a wonderful night's sleep, although the hot water and heating didn't work. We were up early the next morning and after a bit of organising, had a plumber come and fix the problem. After that, showers all round and a trip into Bury St Edmunds to get our sim cards fixed and to load up on groceries. Thus fortified, we returned home, packed our things away and settled into a quiet toasty evening and did that most banal of all things: sat and watched TV and enjoyed a Sunday roast. After all it was in English, don't you know and we could understand every word!
Monday dawned, another bright sunny day and making the most of it whilst it lasted, we enjoyed a delightful walk down to Herringswell village, explored the church, built in 1300ish and then tramped along a country footpath. Green fields, hedgerows, daffodils and tulips sprouting in groups everywhere. Oh and the pig farms. It's all organic in this neck of the woods and many happy piggies could be seen and heard snuffling in their troughs in open fields, or lying on piles of straw outside their very own quonset huts (Ian was a little disturbed by this, as it reminded him of the accomodation migrants to Australia lived in upon arrival back in the 60's). There were several paddocks along the way and hundreds of pigs. We have resolved to keep the windows closed while we eat our bacon and eggs and felt slightly guilty about having roasted one of their friends on Sunday.
Tuesday was the perfect day for a drive, the weather having turned a bit grey, although it did not rain somewhat surprisingly. We were off to wander in Constable country. Constable being one of Ian's favourite English artists and the counties of Suffolk and Essex, Constable's inspiration. We wandered through country lanes to Flatford Mill. Flatford Mill was a little underwhelming really and we spent a short time there before deciding that we would head on to Lavenham, a medieval village full of colourful, crooked timber and daub houses. The sun had made an appearance by the time we navigated the tiny roads between the fields of butter coloured canola, interspersed with verdant rye grass, all kept in check by the ever present hedges. It really is as pretty as a picture, with hedges coming into leaf, bordered by fluffy white blossoms; one can see why Constable was inspired to paint in such a beautiful landscape.
We strolled around Lavenham, marvelling at how the crooked buildings managed to stand up, let alone be renovated into pubs, posh restaurants and upmarket BnB's. It is a delightful little village, however we didn't envy the lot of the villagers charged with the upkeep. We finished off our little tour with a visit to the local bakery, where we indulged ourselves in apple turnovers and strawberry rhubarb shortcake. These little piggies then jumped into the car and drove off home to Herringswell, where a delightful New Zealand Sav Blanc brought the day to a close.