We’re supposed to be staying in Norfolk until Friday but apparently we’ve had enough, even though two stereotypical men on the cusp of old age, wearing blue overalls and equipped with a set of ladders, had managed to restore the television to working order in time for the last segment of yesterday’s Countdown. We walk through the town, dodging perhaps the world’s largest fleet of motorized wheelchairs and pondering the effects of centuries of inbreeding in this all-white community; one suspects that the local branch of Mensa does not struggle to find a room large enough for its meetings. I take the opportunity to stock up on some local delicacies which are either very bad for me (pork scratchings) or very bad for the planet (smoked cod’s roe, which is presumably doing nothing at all to help rebuild the population of adult cod in the North Sea). Still, I can’t resist them. I once joined a London club simply because it reliably served smoked cod’s roe as a lunchtime starter. I’d still be a member if I had not decided – in a rare burst of prudence – that paying a near-£1,000 annual subscription was perhaps rather steep for a once-a-year treat.
There is a choice for the long drive home to Northumberland: let my ancient aunt do it and be terrified and guilty; or do it myself and be a bit scared and thoroughly bored. As a compromise, I let her drive for the scenic bit along the north Norfolk coast and the dull, flat section across to the A1. Then, after a sandwich at the sadly under-patronized Jolly Farmer service area near Newark, I take over for the mind-bogglingly dull flog back up to the North East. My aunt’s car is somewhat less powerful than my own, so when a big yellow lorry flashes its lights at me I take that as an invitation to pull out after refuelling; whereas in fact it meant “Don’t even think of steering that slow-moving heap of crap into my way”. Still, he eases off the accelerator so that he can focus on sounding the horn, and we make our getaway unscathed.
I’m glad to get home until I inspect my airing cupboard. Teams of skilled Northumbrian builders have been inspecting and repairing the roof above it over the last six weeks or so, to cure what is described as a “damp” problem; in the way that killer whales at the Sea Life Centre like to be accommodated in a nice big tank of damp. The water running down the walls this evening is hardly on the scale of High Force, or even Old Mother Shipton’s cave in Knaresborough; but there is no denying that it is a pain in place where I would much prefer not to have one.
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