Well, despite the hard times, we have managed a little holiday – a week at my mum’s in Norfolk, half with her there, half with her gone. Perfect.
Growing up in Norfolk felt dull – big skies and beaches, hours from anywhere don’t appeal much when you’re 15-18 and itching for some entertainment – though in Walthamstow last Tuesday lunchtime the unemployed 19 year olds were hanging out in a kids’ play park, so maybe it’s all the same when you don’t have much money and nothing to do.
Anyhoo, what felt dull as a teenager is just lovely as an adult, and even better as a parent. Norfolk is beautiful. The weather wasn’t brilliant, but Babs didn’t care, she was just happy being on the beach, playing with sand and throwing stones and looking in rock pools.
The days we got rained off the beach or sandblasted into retreat, we spent in Sandringham woods, complete with a troll which both scared and intrigued little Babs, whose favourite book for the past couple of months has been the Billy Goats Gruff (three Ladybird versions – 1970s ‘well-loved tales’, 1980s redesign, 1980s ‘read it yourself’). We had to go back to the woods three days on the trot, and she gradually built up to touching it (after much demonstration by daddy that the troll was not real), and on the walks we tried to take preceding or following our visits to the troll’s hideout, she didn’t talk about much else. On day 3, as we stepped out of the car, she told me, ‘I’m not scared; I’m a brave girl. The troll’s not real; he’s made of wood.’ I think she was really trying to reassure herself.
We also made it to see Louisa and two of her three tiddlers; in their amazing garden they had a glut of yellow courgettes, so we came home with an armful and made pasta with courgette, garlic and chili (based on the penne gardiniera we both order every time we go to Carluccio’s), and ordered the book she recommended (Red Velvet and Chocolate Heartache) in order to make chocolate courgette cake (book arrived, cake outstanding),
Other highlights of a fortnight off, between Norfolk, London and Dorset:
- Crisp sandwiches in the car
- Painful, spiky sand whipped up off the beach in the wind, meaning we had to think again for what to do… ending up at Bircham windmill
- Making a run for it off Heacham beach when the rain decided it wasn’t going away
- Fish and chips from Fishers in Hunstanton, sadly in polystyrene not paper, but enhanced with salt from a salt mill and a jar of tartare sauce and cotton napkins, packed by my mum
- Babs playing in rockpools
- Swimming in Fulwell Cross Leisure Centre – an old 60s pool, with old wooden 60s flip seats in the spectating area, which poor Babs got sandwiched down, and squealed no more than might be expected
- Shopping in Veena’s in Barkingside – mango to make mango lassi, chai puri, masala fish spices, and falafel mix. I almost bought idli and vada, and we talked about going to Idli Vada in Gants Hill (which I can’t find online!), but we have a vada mix at home, so I’ll do it soon. Idli mix and vada mix and uttapam mix and dosa mix… oh my. The temptation.
- Buying withdrawn books for 50p from Barkingside library – Helen Cooper’s Tatty Ratty is our new favourite, and could help us out of a hole, should Horsey ever go walkabout
- Hanging out with D and Gussie-Goose, idolised by Babs, in their amazing mid-century bungalow surrounded by fields. For days after we came home, she asked me every day: ‘Where’s K?’, ‘Where’s I?’, ‘Where’s D?’, ‘Where’s Gussie-Goose?’ and told me every night ‘ I love mummy and I love daddy and I love Rachel and I love K, and I love I, and I love D and I love Gussie-Goose’. Smitten.
Oh, and I’ve finally found a good picnic blanket, after two summers of looking. Only problem is, we have no money; so it’s on my Christmas list. And lots of things for other people’s Christmas, here; and more picnicky brilliance here.