So I spent the last week camping. In Norfolk. This did strike fear into my heart when I was in the anticipatory stages of going; camping anywhere in England inevitably results in constant rain, mud everywhere, no sleep, damp clothes and bad tempers. However, none of my fears were realised, apart from the slight sleep deprivation and odd snappy comment. The sun shone (I even got a tan!), the tent and its contents stayed dry, and I even managed to enjoy myself. Joy!
The first six days of my week away were spent at Newday, a youth Christian festival. I am a church youth worker so along I went with various friends to keep the kids in line and laze around in the sunshine. We had a wonderful time; the seminars and times of worship in the evening were brilliant and uplifting and the lazy afternoons provided plenty of time for good, deep chats over contraband wine with my friends….and minus the wine with the youth. I do enjoy spending time with teenagers as it reminds me of how far I have come, and how much I do NOT want to go back to being an insecure, clueless and really rather annoying schoolgirl with bad fashion sense and an obsession with nail varnish. I also have to stifle a chuckle at their awkward attempts to communicate with each other, usually along the lines of ‘sooo…what music you into?’. Bless those hormonal bundles of acute embarrassment. I hope they too will look back and laugh when they’re my age!
Once Newday was over my flatmate and our friend and I bundled into my Mini and off we drove to Cromer, a once genteel Edwardian seaside resort that now consists of an unimpressive pier and a LOT of teashops, which I had no problem with as the words ‘cream tea’ bring me to my knees. The sun shone and we splashed delicately in the sea and wandered around the shops and ate fish and chips as the sun set before heading back to a much smaller campsite without the 7,000 teenagers we had been sleeping alongside for the previous week. This was, as I am sure you can imagine, bliss.
The next day my long suffering Mini trundled us off to Blickling Hall, a National Trust property nearby, where Anne Boleyn was reputedly born, and which was absolutely stunning and had beautiful gardens, a jealousy inducing library and a MASSIVE second hand bookshop in which I almost hyperventilated. I found tons of books I wanted but restricted myself to just one; a lovely first edition of an Edith Wharton book, New Year’s Day, that I then discovered was the second in a quartet that make up Old New York. Shame. I shall now have to buy the other three. After a hearty pub lunch we then visited Felbrigg Hall, another National Trust property, that was not as impressive but also boasted a second hand bookshop (in which I bought nothing) and some beautiful paintings. We finished up by going to the beach at a small village called Overstrand, where we used a phone box to call home and felt very retro as we dialled 0800 R-E-V-E-R-S-E (remember those days?), and then we capped off a very enjoyable day by being good Sarf East Landoners and going for a curry in Cromer, which was delicious.
The next morning we packed up our tent and went off to Cromer to go to a service at the beautiful and skyline dominating church in the centre of town. We then had a greasy spoon breakfast at the local caff before I drove us to Oxburgh Hall, on the border of Norfolk and Cambridgeshire, which is a stunning moated 15thc house with some wonderful embroideries by Mary Queen of Scots and a priest’s hole that I shimmied my way into and then felt very brave when I was congratulated for my daring on my way out. After a sandwich sitting in the ruined church next door, we headed to Cambridge, where we stopped for a cream tea, a wander and a look around the Fitzwilliam Museum, which has a very interesting Darwin exhibition exploring his influence on the arts (from the Pre Raphaelites to Degas) before arriving back in London, exhausted, tanned and far more cultured than when we left.