We’ve had a lovely ten days away. The forecast was not good, so we prudently took rain gear, but the sun shone on us almost continuously — we never got wet once. We were staying at Felbrigg Hall, an eccentric composite building not unlike St Custards, but idyllically quiet in the middle of a park whose eighteenth-century trees had achieved colossal size and beauty. It’s only a couple of miles from Cromer, where we hired a little car from a most genial and charming independent hire firm, and went exploring. It’s a countryside spectacularly unlike Aberdeenshire, and beautiful in its own way, very secretive, with all those great trees, houses and churches of brick and flint, and of course, flat. No mountains on the horizon. We went to Sheringham and solemnly ate crab (very nice too), to Oxburgh, most loopily romantic of Elizabethan piles, surrounded by its moat, to Holkham and to Blickling, but quite a lot of the time we pottered about in the park at Felbrigg itself, which has wonderful woodland walks that look like a neo-romantic back curtain for Les Sylphides, and a most beautiful walled garden. We arrived at Felbrigg just in the final stages of some species of sustainable building fair — fuel made out of compacted straw and sawdust, which looked like cat litter for tigers, straw-bale house construction, all that fun stuff, but also a food tent, which was most welcome since we were rather provisionally provisioned off railway concourse mini-supermarkets: the food side of the fair yielded bags of apples, broccoli, artiginal sausages, a small pork pie, scones, a gingerbread man and home-made lemonade, all of which were most welcome. The fair was, naturally, full of happy dogs, causing a certain wistfulness in our dogless state. It was also open on the Sunday, and we went back, to find lots more food including a Thai noodle stand, a really wonderful bakery, and people selling sausages, hot pork sandwiches and what you will. We ate Thai noodles and bought bread, tomatoes and a Romesco cauliflower, but over the few days which followed, the riotous availability of sausages, pork pies, and interesting walks left me with the tentative conclusion that Norfolk may be a county where labradors have the vote. Plus there seemed to be dog water bowls at every turn. Last Friday we had a jolly day in Norwich with the Professor’s friend the Hero — we spent a long time communing with the Cotmans in the Castle museum, then went on a search for a 6,000 year old flint hand-axe which the hero wanted to see. This took us on a wild trip round local history, wildlife dioramas, stuffed tigers and God knows what before we admitted defeat and got the information lass to summon a curator — wherever I might have thought of to put a 6,000 year old hand-axe, it would not have been amid a fine display of exotic coprolites, viz., fossil shit — by the standards of the coprolites, which dated back to the era of the dinosaurs, the axe was practically modern, and was, moreover, an artefact and not a mere by-product of digestion. Never mind. The curator was charming and full of enthusiasm, also information. After that we had lunch in the Assembly Rooms, also a venture steeped in the past, or pasts; the double-height room, where the Professor remembered eating some forty years ago, was a cheerful pink with rococo plasterwork decoration, a bit like being inside a celebration cake, and the Hero and I both had sausage and mash (the labrador influence again, I suspect). Further investigations of the town ended up in Norwich Cathedral, which is fine, and then we said goodbye to the Hero, met up with an elderly but flourishing poet and went off to stay with him for a night in another bit of Norfolk. We went to London after that, and went and had a look at Strawberry Hill, which is in a strange and rather lovely but probably transitional state — the decor has been restored up to the nines if not tens, but the fantastical, wildly camp rooms which in their first incarnation were of course absolutely stuffed with stuff are now completely empty. Worth seeing in its present state for the sheer weirdness. I am glad to say that there is a resident cat, a large black one. We flew back today, and retrieved Miss Kit from her cattery. She has clearly taken no harm, but is ecstatically pleased to be home. Apart from being a sociable little creature, she does love to go out, and has found being penned up oppressive. She complained all the way home, but is now back on the hot spot, looking up once in a while to see I’m still there, and purring loudly. The kitchen is still in a state of devastation though well on the way to being miles better — we are supping on ready-meals in a most uncharacteristic fashion, since putting things in the oven in little foil coffins is all we can do without getting in Barry’s way. It really will be lovely when it’s done.

One Response to “Home”

  1. William Says:

    Phew! That was an essay! Feel very sad about you not having a Labrador. M eldest is getting very grey now and a little creaky. Tell Peter there’s a very good bit in the torygraph about Atkinson grimshaw. The parents were up on holiday in scarbo-rough last week. Love to both.

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