Well, that was a week and a half, wasn’t it! Drama, excitement, despair and regret…But that’s holidays for you. Seriously, I missed out on most of the whole EU Referendum saga, because I was safely chugging along on a boat in the Norfolk Broads. There was rarely any internet signal. I couldn’t send text messages most of the time. Even the television signal kept breaking up, so almost every evening we were treated to showings of a Peppa Pig DVD on an endless loop, courtesy of my two granddaughters, Amelia and Clara. Occasionally, as a treat, we watched Dr Who DVDs, as my eldest son is (possibly) even more of an obsessed Whovian than I am (although when it comes to the Eleventh Doctor, I probably win). Catching up on social media has been an eye-opener, I can tell you. However, this post isn’t going to deal with all the angst, and bitterness, and recriminations, and name-calling, and general nastiness and division that this referendum has left in its wake. Nor will I dwell on the result. It wasn’t the result I’d hoped for, but it’s done now. We just have to get on with it – respect the democratic process, and try to heal this country, and make it work – together. Hearts mend, eventually. That’s not to underplay the sheer desolation some will be feeling, and the fear that comes with facing an uncertain future. But this is not the time or place for such matters.
This post is simply a look back at my week on a boat, with some of my family, on the beautiful Norfolk Broads. I’ve never been to Norfolk before. Here’s what I discovered.
I could fit through the doorway of the boat. Seriously, this was a genuine concern. I’d seen photos of the boats in the holiday brochures and noticed that some of the doors looked barely big enough to let a five-year-old child through. I had visions of being stuck in the doorway for the entire week. I woke up sweating from nightmares of humiliation. I informed my friends and family that if they received a postcard from Wedged-in-the-Doorway, it wouldn’t be a nice little village in Norfolk! Luckily, when it actually came to it, I easily made it through the door. Phew!
There are LOTS of swans and ducks and geese on the Norfolk Broads. They are absolutely everywhere, and I had to shut my eyes a few times, fearing we were about to plough into some of them as they charged at the boat, seemingly unfazed by our approach. Luckily, they missed us every time, dodging out of the way at the last moment as if they were deliberately trying to kill me off. Do swans play chicken?? Anyway, we even got two little hitchhikers one day, as these little characters landed on the canopy of our boat and stayed with us as we chugged along the water. Well, why fly when you can be chauffeur driven? Quite right. And they got plenty of treats along the way.
There are, literally, millions of windmills in Norfolk. Well, okay, not millions. But a LOT. And maybe not all over Norfolk, to be fair, but certainly on the Broads, they are dotted around everywhere. I started off quite excited and taking photographs of them all as I passed, but after a couple of days I was barely noticing them. They’re quite common, after all. Yawn. Who am I kidding? I love windmills! I took so many photos that I have no idea if I photographed the same ones on different days. We were chugging back and forth, and passed some places several times, so it’s quite possible. But look, there’s something very romantic about a windmill. Even if it does make me think of Windy Miller and Camberwick Green.
There are some curious buildings to be seen as you’re cruising along the Norfolk Broads. This strange structure looked like a disused windmill, built inside what was left of a church or abbey or castle. Whatever it was, it caught my imagination.
There are some cracking pubs to be found, which serve delicious food at reasonable prices, and you can (usually) moor up outside them for free. The downside to that is, of course, that you have to be pretty much moored up for the night by one o’clock in the afternoon, or the moorings will all be taken, and you will find yourself glugging up and down the water at seven o’clock in the evening, absolutely starving, grumpy and realising you’re now the last boat still on the move.
One night, we gave up and moored by the river bank, right next to a gloomy wood. There was nothing and no one else around. Could have been quite spooky. I amused myself by sitting in the driver’s seat, all alone in the cabin, peering out of the window at the trees and imagining it was Sherwood Forest. DH, who at times astounds me with his perception, played Clannad’s Robin of Sherwood soundtrack for me on his phone and left me to it, and I scanned the woods and swore to myself I saw the shapes of Herne the Hunter and the Hooded Man, while Clannad’s mystical music lulled me into a different landscape altogether. And I hadn’t even had alcohol! Another night, we moored up at a private mooring, and saw the strawberry moon in the sky, and watched the mist on the water and across the fields first thing in the morning, and I decided this must be what heaven looked like. Then there was the night of the barbecue, when we found a little mooring by the side of a small public garden, with benches to sit on. DS1 cooked the burgers and sausages, and I sat on a bench and listened to the birds singing in the trees, and realised I’d never known before how soothing the sound was. Bliss.
There are loads of thatched cottages in Norfolk! I mean, really, loads! We don’t see many of them round here, but I suppose, with all the reeds growing in the area, they make full use of them. Almost every house we passed had a thatched roof. Even the outhouses had thatched roofs. We stopped pointing them out after a day, because otherwise, that’s all we’d have done. They’re even more common than windmills! We saw someone actually in the process of thatching a roof, which filled me with joy and an optimism for the future I can’t begin to put into words.
Boats are the opposite of the Tardis. They look bigger on the outside. And I now know that I hate chemical toilets with a passion. Also, there are river hogs, just as there are road hogs. We witnessed quite a scene on one stretch of waterway, as some smart alec decided to overtake us on a bend, just as another smart alec came round the corner, towing a rowing boat and a dinghy at the side of his boat, making it twice as wide. The driver stood up, waving his arms and screaming at the overtaker to go back, while the second driver looked bewildered and ended up charging into the reeds. We, meanwhile, chugged quietly on, shaking our heads at the folly of mankind.
In short, I had a wonderful week on the beautiful Norfolk Broads. Life is good. Britain is beautiful. We are lucky to live on this stunning island. Let’s stop the bitterness now, and work together to keep it great. Have a lovely week. xxx