A couple of weeks ago, I, along with DH, eldest son, daughter-in-law, two granddaughters, plus Buddy their dog, headed down to Norfolk for a ten-day holiday on the Broads. We’ve been before, a couple of years ago, so we knew what to expect. This time round we’d upgraded the boat. Three double bedrooms, three en suite bathrooms, a decent kitchen, a map of the Broads, and a whole bundle of leaflets for places to eat, places to drink, places to visit. The plan was lots of rest and relaxation and no writing, no internet, no worries.
The weather was fabulous to us – at least, to begin with. For the first four or five days we had glorious sunshine. The skies were blue and the sun shone and there was a real danger that I was starting to glow in the dark, despite the Factor 50 sun cream. (Yes, I did forget to reapply it!)
We spent the Bank Holiday sitting outside a riverside pub, drinking black fruit cider (why have I never tasted that before? It’s fabulous!) and eating tasty food, while the sun shone down on us and the lapping of the water soothed us and we all agreed life was very good indeed.
We had lazy days chugging along the waterways, watching the wildlife in fascination. Our granddaughters, aged six and three, were thrilled to spot swans and geese and ducks, and we were rather more excited to see herons and reed warblers and even – on one memorable occasion – a kingfisher. Some of the swans made a great show of warning us off when we moored up in one particular location, rearing up and flapping their wings quite alarmingly, but it only made the girls love them more, even if Buddy was slightly more wary!
On our travels, we passed dozens of thatched cottages, beautiful red-brick houses with private moorings, and glorious windmills. In the distance we saw church spires and ruins of monuments. We waved happily to other boaters who passed us in the opposite direction. We waved less happily to boaters who overtook us. Didn’t they know about the speed limits on the Broads? Average speed limit is 5mph, though sometimes you can increase it to a heady 6mph. Since we were sticking to the rules, we all agreed that those people must be flouting the law with a total disregard for safety, or the possibility of a fine of up to a thousand pounds (as the man who showed us around our boat darkly warned us).
It was more than halfway through our holiday when we discovered that the speed we’d been travelling at was way below what we thought it was, due to having no speedometer and having to go by the rev counter and a set of instructions from the boatyard which, it turned out, were wrong. So the other boaters hadn’t been speeding at all. No wonder they’d all overtaken us! They must have been muttering “Sunday drivers” at us as they passed, while waving their glasses of wine and smiling through gritted teeth. Oops!
Undeterred, we used a phone speedometer to keep a check from then on, and were soon continuing our journey at the correct speed. We stopped at various pubs and restaurants almost every evening and – apart from one pub which shall remain nameless – we had a most pleasant experience in every one of them. Norfolk is certainly beautiful, and the people we met were so friendly – apart from in that one pub which shall STILL remain nameless, and no, it isn’t featured in any of these photographs – and nor is the dead fly that lay on the windowsill opposite us as we ate!
Still, it was the only dark spot in the holiday, in spite of the fact that the weather had turned and it became chilly and grey. We had rain on a couple of occasions, but it didn’t really matter. On the bright side, I managed to read two-and-a-half novels, having no access to my laptop. I got more reading done in those ten days than I’ve managed in the last four months or so. All-in-all, we were having a great time. And then …
Last full day of our holidays. We’re heading back from Coltishall Common to Potter Heigham. It’s a good few hours’ journey by boat. We plan to have a nice, easy day, with all four of us adults taking turns to drive and stopping halfway through for something to eat before continuing. First, we need to stop at Wroxham so that the pilot can take the boat under the bridge. We pull over by the mooring. D-I-L and DH jump out of the boat to moor up. DH hasn’t got the rope. He reaches over to grab the rope, putting his hands on the side of the boat. Another boat passes and our boat moves away, carried on the wake. DH hasn’t let go of our boat. He realises that he has no option but to jump in the water. He jumps. As he does so, he makes an effort to turn back to the mooring. He smacks his shoulder. There’s a splash, then a shout…
I was in the kitchen making drinks. I didn’t see it happen but I heard the splash, then I heard shouting, saw people running towards us. I looked out of the window and saw DH looking deathly white, his arm in the most peculiar position. He couldn’t move it. He was in terrible pain. The pilot came to help. DS1 managed to position the boat close enough for D-I-L to tie it up and then he jumped out. The grandchildren were upset, hanging out of the window, wanting to know what had happened to Grandad. My legs had turned to jelly. I tried to keep them calm and get them away from the window while desperately trying to see what was going on. DH couldn’t use his arm to get out of the water, so had to make his way around the wooden landing to a ladder. Unfortunately, the water went from 3′ to 10′ and he couldn’t swim with one arm. DS1 had to hold his good arm and walk him around to the ladder, holding him up out of the water. The pilot was, quite rightly, insistent that he couldn’t get in the water with him.
The pilot and two other men helped DH up the ladder. He was in terrible pain by this time and the pilot immediately rang for an ambulance. D-I-L got back on the boat so I got off and took DH his coat to wrap around him. He also had towels across his knees, and three pillows to prop his arm up, which DS1 had positioned on his own knee to keep the arm in the most comfortable position.
It took over an hour and a half for the ambulance to arrive, but when it did the paramedics were wonderful. They couldn’t have been kinder, more reassuring, more gentle. DH discovered the wonders of gas and air and, after several tests, he was taken by ambulance to Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. He was x-rayed within around twenty minutes of arrival. The shoulder was dislocated and the arm had to be pushed back in place. Ouch! I sat with him while a wonderful doctor and nurse did the deed. I heard a loud crack and the arm was back in place. The hospital staff were fantastic, although the place was super busy and DH was on a trolley in the corridor for a good while afterwards, due to there being no available space anywhere else. Finally discharged, we took seats in A & E, notes and results in an envelope for our local hospital clutched in our hot little hands, and waited for DS1 to pick us up. He had driven the boat back to the boatyard and collected his car, then headed to Norwich to get us.
DH was still in pain, but nowhere near the agonising levels it had been before the doctors pushed the arm back in place. He slept on the sofa bed in the living room and we all agreed it could have been much worse, and at least it had happened on the last day of the holidays.
The next day, DH and I were to be driven home in our car by DS1, while D-I-L took the grandchildren and dog back to their house in Derbyshire in their own car. We said our goodbyes and settled down for the long journey back to East Yorkshire. We didn’t even make it as far as Norwich when there was a horrible sound from the car and DS1 pulled into a country lane, not liking the way the car had been handling. He turned the engine off, then turned it on again. There was an ominous bang and silence. DS rang the RAC and we waited for over an hour. When the man arrived, he had a good look, shook his head, and pronounced our beloved, if ancient, car deceased. “You’ll have to wait for a recovery truck,” he told us. “They’ll take you and your car home. Could be over an hour, though. We’re very busy today.”
In the event, it was four hours later when one arrived. In the meantime, I was getting quite panicky as I needed the loo and nothing and no one would persuade me to go behind the bushes! Hot and thirsty, DS1 and I left poor DH behind to have a nap in the car, and walked to the nearest pub where, with much relief, I discovered that the toilets there were the nicest toilets I’ve ever seen in any pub anywhere. DS1, meanwhile, had cheerfully discovered that the beer was pretty good, too, and was happily downing a pint of it to prove his point. We sat outside and I melted as the sun beat down. Trust me to put a jumper on for the last day! I’d expected it to be chilly but no. I daren’t drink in case I needed the loo again before we got home. Eventually, DS1 decided he might as well have another pint. “What about the RAC?” “Oh, they’ll be ages yet.” “What about your dad?” “Oh, ring him and tell him we’re fine.” I rang him. Twice. No signal. I texted him – or at least I tried to, but it wouldn’t send. I really had no choice but to go inside the pub to cool off and partake of a soft drink, now did I? Eventually, having used the facilities again, DS and I set off back to the car. I have to say, the village was picture postcard pretty. There was even a phone box full of books which gladdened my heart, plus a sign for a blacksmith’s! The pub was lovely, too, so it was worth the hike uphill in blazing sunshine just to avail myself of the facilities. And, luckily, having his arm in a sling seemed to have mellowed DH, who didn’t even moan about the fact that our “ten minute” walk to the pub had taken an hour and forty minutes!
Eventually, a large van pulled up and our beloved car was loaded up while we climbed into the cab and prepared for the four hour journey home. It was gone eight o’clock when we finally turned into our street. Poor DH had endured an extremely uncomfortable ride home, his arm in its sling.
So now we’re back and normal life has resumed – except that DH’s arm is still in a sling and he’s likely to be having physio for at least five weeks, plus we have no car. Ours has been with us for eight years and has carried us to so many places and hardly cost us a penny in all that time, so we’re really sad to see her go. But she’s sixteen now and we were planning to replace her early next year anyway. Since DH can’t drive at the moment there’s no hurry anyway, although it’s one of those times when I think I really should have passed my test after all.
All in all, it was a holiday we’ll never forget! But we certainly do love Norfolk, and we had a great time with our family, and we were reminded once again – if we needed reminding – just how lucky we are to have such a wonderful NHS.
Have a great week.