Monday, 24 August 2015

Near-Catastrophe Miss

Thursday 20th August to Sunday 23rd August 2015

We had moored the previous night at Stantonbury Park in Milton Keynes - this has been a location that we have passed by on a few occassions and thought that it looked a peaceful quiet place, but have always favoured Campbell Park.
For the previous day we had just simply had enough cruising and with rain imminent we decided that our previous thoughts would be a suitable barometer - we were not disappointed, and it was both peaceful and quiet.
So for Thursday it was only the matter of a short cruise to our preferred mooring spot at Campbell Park - en route there was the required elsan visit - this became the canal version of a Grand Prix pit stop - Diane gently easing the boat into the assigned mooring spot and whilst she was tying up, I was already off the cassette and reappeared onto the boat within just a couple of minutes - it really now is a fine art; Diane untied and we moved off - barely enough time for a boat that was right behind us, to now be right in front.

Why move the short distance? Easy really, we were hiring a car for the weekend and it was just a short 1 mile walk from the new mooring to be able to pick it up.

We did however spend the remainder of Thursday getting a few things done at the shopping centre as well as others aboard.

We wanted to be away as early as possible on Friday, so I made the trek and was on the doorstep of Enterprise just before 8am; they were open early and I was away not long after 8 and parked beside the boat before 8:30.
Whilst I was sorting out the car, Diane had taken care of all of the packing, so we were on the road just after 9am.

What was the reason for the car hire? - Diane's cousin, Phil, was getting married - the ceremony and reception being at Gorleston (Norfolk);  many guests, ourselves included were staying that night and we would come back to the boat on Sunday.

But for Friday we were heading down to Watford - there was an urgent package that had arrived in the mail for Diane and couldn't wait for another week, so we drove there to pick that up - only her uncle, David, being there - he had notified us that it had arrived.

One other reason for the Friday expedition was that Diane wanted to see somewhere that we hadn't seen together and she had always wanted to return back to Clacton-on-Sea where she had visited as a young girl - I, of course, had never been there, so why not?

Escaping the confines of greater London and its traffic was one of those things that you think is not going to happen, but eventually we crossed the M25 "barrier" and the green areas got bigger and the housing estates reduced - but getting anywhere is slow.

Finally we found our destination and then a parking spot (also rare) and had a wander around.
Like many other seaside holiday towns it was showing part of its age and certainly its target audience.
With Clacton Pier in the background, we were enjoying the sun, so the selfie-queen
was busy with the camera
There has been a considerable amount of money spent on improving the facade and making it more appealing and given that we were still in the summer school holiday period there were a lot of families around enjoying themselves - I guess the sunshine helped a lot as well.
After an hour we had seen enough and had added the characteristic tones of the Essex accent to our library of unforgettables.

Onward to our "mooring" spot for the night - and quite frankly we were pretty well knackered from the early start, the driving (giving directions), the heat and humidity, and being tourists, and it was not a late night for either of us. A Friday night drink at the pub next door was as about as exciting as it got.

Saturday was the day of the wedding and with it being scheduled for 4pm, this left us plenty of time to make it there.

Firstly we drove off, heading to Ipswich where we thought it might be nice to have a bit of a look around, as well as having some breakfast - it is becoming a likeable alternative, the good folk at the 'spoons in the centre of Ipswich catered for us very well indeed; we also had a wander around the Saturday market in the central pedestrianised area, before making our way back to the car which happened to be right alongside the ground of Ipswich FC - sad to say that they were playing away that day, so we didn't get to see if the lads really were living up to their nickname and driving tractors to the match.

Further along and seeing that time permitted we took a small detour to have a look at Lowestoft - it has a quite lovely seafront and beach with real sand - there still are a lot of pebbles and rocks - but mainly sand; the colourful beach-huts (for hire) were almost fully occupied.

Diane thought that somewhere over this weekend we would be able to have a swim in the sea, but even with the higher temperatures and the high humidity it was not hot enough to catch me getting even my toes wet - Diane was enthusiastic about it all, but decided that testing the water was a good start - how strange that even getting wet to her ankles should so quickly change her mind - the verdict - the water was freezing.

There were plenty of kids and reluctant parents in the water - I think it is just that we are getting old or rather, I should say, more sensible.
The water was not as warm as it looked and behind that "smile" was a grimace

plenty of people were in the water but not warm enough to entice both of us

It was a great area here to enjoy it all

Back into the car, which after an hour in the sun was perhaps changing our mind about a quick dip - we resisted it by opening the windows as we left the car park and we were quickly cooled down - for despite everything else, the air was not hot nor even warm.

The short driveup to Gorleston was just that - short - it took longer to find a parking spot to leave the car - everything in the hotel park was full, as were the surrounding streets - eventually perseverance paid off and we unloading the luggage and walked to the hotel.
Fortunately our room was ready and we were able to off load the bags (no, not Diane) and then head to the bar; not so for some others in the party - in particular two of Dianes second-cousins and their partners who had had their reservations unknowingly cancelled and were waiting for rooms to be available - all was eventually sorted out, but the hotel didn't fare well out of it all.

Time to get changed and make our way to the venue for the ceremony - an anxious groom waiting, a bride with the traditional slow clock - all was going to plan.

Ready for the wedding 

It was indeed fair to say that Nikki looked absolutely beautiful; Phil scrubbed up pretty well; they are a lovely couple together - still cannot work out how he managed to get Nikki.
That's Phil on the right - just hoping that Nikki isn't too much longer

Phil and Nikki - its all done now; Rachel and Kathryn (bridesmaids) in the

No problems throughout the ceremony; the photography session went well as did the reception which was very simple and very effective.
Jonathon and Zara - a beautiful couple

Phil's dad Paddy - whilst happy about the wedding, he was very
happy to collect his winnings from me with England winning
back The Ashes

We had had a long and relatively active day and by 10:30 we were both knackered and made our excuses and headed up for some sleep which arrived pretty quick, despite the warm night and the humidity.
Unaccustomed to public speaking - Phil did a great job!

There's one at every party

The following morning we were down for breakfast quite early and in the warm sunshine and high winds we took a good long walk along the seafront, catching the pilot boat heading back from a ship ready to come in and then seeing it being brought into the Gorleston/Great Yarmouth harbour area - boating is in the blood now
Rather windy - but in the background the windsurfers loved it

This was under pilot's instructions as it entered the harbour - note the waves

the Old Lighthouse at Gorleston

After packing the car and saying our good-byes to all that we knew we decided that we would make a relatively early exit - 9:30 is after all almost afternoon in our book - but some think that it is even too early to be awake.

Along the way, somehow I missed the turn-off for Cambridge - honest, your honour, I just didn't see it - I suspect the navigator was giving me a bum steer - that would be the navigator on the satnav, not the one in the passenger seat (it would not do well for me to be saying that about my beloved).

Anyway, having missed the turn, we made good of it all and Diane found a National Trust property to visit - Oxburgh Hall in Norfolk - and it was a hidden gem.
Oxburgh Hall

Main Entrance

Built in 1482 it stands surounded by a moat and was given authority to be fortified; so with castellated towers and suitable defences it stands, still much as we could see that it might have stood for over 500 years.
The family still occupy part of the buildings and have permission to do so for perpetuity.

The fellow in the painting was Governor of The Tower
of London between 1553 and 1558 

A damsel in distress - must rescue her - wait on, I know her

Candles for Mum and for Lauren

After spending a few hours there we realised that it was time to push on - having come too far north we would need to settle mainly for secondary A roads to make our way back.
That would have been fine but we did have a near crash as we made our way toward March.

A Tesco delivery van was in front and suddenly it's hazard lights came on and it pulled toward the other side of the road. My thoughts were that it was pulling over to stop and make it's delivery, the hazard lights being to alert drivers coming the other way that it was doing so.
In the meantime I was preparing simply to carry on travelling along on the left-hand side of the road and passing by, when all of a sudden the van was turning to be across the road - I had not been too close when we were behind the van, so the driver would have known that we were there, but I was also close enough (very fortunately) that I was able to veer further left (and that there was sufficient room on the narrow road to do so) and miss the van that seemingly was still moving forward.
His manouevre was, in the least stupid and I would think totally illegal, so it would have been interesting if there had been contact.

After that near miss the "normally" placid passenger was even more apprehensive from her side of the car; there was genuine fear on my part that we might have been charged the excess because of the damage to the dashboard from her plunging her sharp nails into it in an effort to hang on.

Diane's approach to being a passenger is akin to Hyacinth in "Keeping up Appearances" - ever cautious about something a few hundred metres up the road and fearful of anything approaching from either side or in the adjacent lane.

She is to put it mildly a woman is perpetual panic.

We did make it back to the boat in reasonably good time; my bloodied arm from fingernail imprints, scratches and bites will eventually heal - doctors said that I need to stay away from a car with Diane in it for a few weeks and I will be OK.
Sadly that could not be the case - we had planned a trip to Manchester and back for Monday; that I am writing this now gives you an idea that I survived - how I managed it is another story

4 Miles
YTD: 754 Miles (1213 km) , 428 Locks, 14 Tunnels, 11 Lift Bridges, 13 Swing Bridges

Totals: 3648 Miles (5871 km) , 2549 Locks, 112 Tunnels, 45 Lift Bridges, 164 Swing Bridges

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