...in a manor of speaking
24.03.2016 - 27.03.2016 12 °C
Fun fact – referring to chicken parmigiana as ‘chicken parma’ confuses people. When we recounted our evening meal to Sally over breakfast, she had no idea what I was talking about. None whatsoever. I didn’t realise that those final two syllables contained so much meaning. Ah well, I have just confirmed her suspicions that Strayans are lazy when they talk. Stereotype for the win.
We had a phonecall from the Hilder household after breakfast, with the devastating news that Michael has decided to go for the Bombers in this year’s AFL season. This is what happens when you leave the country I suppose – your brother loses the plot entirely.
Before we left Beccles, we had some incredibly unsuccessful shopping expeditions. There was a heartbreaking absence of fancy-tuna-imported-from-Spain in the Bunnings-meets-Kmart superstore, and a heartbreaking absence of the Dan Brown book Simon was looking for in the charity shops. All nine of them. And I know what you’re thinking – Alison, stop exaggerating to make the story better. But I’m not joking. Nine. Phew.
We stopped at Bury St Edmunds (home of Greene King brewery and St Edmund the Martyr) for lunch. Here I saw four charity shops and four men of the cloth in a space of about 15 minutes. Obviously it is a centre for religion and second hand shopping. It was an attractive place to wander, and we briefly contemplated going hovercraft riding but decided the budget would cope better if we admired the Abbey and the gardens instead. Then it rained. So we donned our raincoats and admired everything in the rain. Easy.
We again found our housesitting destination quite fortuitously – Simon decided to turn down a driveway just to get rid of the car sitting very close behind us. And, of course, he chose the driveway of Debden Manor. Nailed it. We were completely and utterly intimidated by the driveway. And then we saw the house. Farrrrrrrrrrrrr out. Welcome to Debden Manor, indeed!
Mash the Patterdale terrier was very pleased to see us and quickly made us feel at home by sitting on our feet. We enjoyed dinner with the Chamberlain clan – and there was sticky toffee pudding, so Simon was totally winning at life. After dinner we had to go to the local (The Plough Inn) to meet the locals and sample the local ales. Warm and cosy – but not too much in the way of head room. Pat may not have enjoyed the experience as much as Simon did.
On Friday morning the Chamberlains departed for their skiing adventure in France (I’m starting to see a pattern here) and we departed for our exploration of the house. Three hours, two staircases and one secret door later, we had found all of the rooms. I think. This place is massive – seven bedrooms and five bathrooms gives you the general idea, but when you consider that all of the rooms are excessively ginormous and include the upstairs area (with air hockey and table tennis table) and entrance hall and library and formal dining room and the cellar… If you google ‘Debden Manor’ it comes up with a real estate link – you can see photos of the place as it was in 2013. Before it was completely and utterly renovated. Just wow.
After the shock and awe had worn off, we went into Thaxted, wandered the village, perused the markets, and visited the Guildhall. Apparently Thaxted is mildly famous for being the home of Gustav Holst for several years, and his location when his work ‘The Planets’ was composed. Quite the cultural hub.
Saturday was Saffron Walden day – this village used to be known as Chipping Walden, but when they realised how well saffron grew there, they renamed the place. It would be like changing Portland’s name to Smelterland, I guess. Anyway – Saffron Walden has an excellent market, and a turf maze that looks lame and pointless but is actually quite difficult and frustrating. We went to Saffron Screen that night and saw The Big Short. Saffron Screen is the cinema that runs out of the school hall – think Corangamite Film Society but with tiered seating and icecream for sale. The Big Short was more appealing to Simon than to me (it’s about the global financial crisis and collapse of the American economy – not my choice, but the best option available). I think that somebody saw the success of The Wolf of Wall Street and thought the world was ready for more finance-related film. It started well but I just couldn’t sustain my interest for long enough.
We celebrated Easter Sunday by going to Cambridge – and, as with all city based adventures, we utilised the park-and-ride facilities. Way of the future, so much easier than driving/navigating in the cities and trying to find parks that don’t cost a fortune. The sun was shining and the forecast was for scattered showers, so we thought it would be a reasonable day for exploring. Most people seem to explore Cambridge by bike – so many bikes! So few helmets! We joined a walking tour with young Charlie and learnt all we needed to know about Cambridge – it’s better than Oxford. About half an hour into our tour, it started raining. Oh well – raincoats on, we can handle scattered showers. Problem was, the showers wouldn’t scatter. It became less like a shower, and more like a downpour, but we soldiered on, because once you are wet you may as well stay wet and learn more stuff about how much better Cambridge is than Oxford. Right? By the end of the tour, it had stopped raining but the tour group had diminished in size considerably. Not everyone was as tough as us, apparently. Oh well – the sun came back out, and after drying off in a café and enjoying our peanut butter sandwiches in the sunshine, we felt like it might be worth going punting after all. Excellent plan. Punting tour booked at 2pm. At approximately 1.55pm, the grey clouds reappeared. We boarded our punt and watched another punt guide slip and fall into the river. Brr. We set off on our punt tour and the rain began again. Huzzah for umbrellas! The ducks seemed to be enjoying themselves. Thankfully, the rain cleared after about 20 minutes and we enjoyed the rest of the punt in relative comfort. Afterwards, we wandered the streets of Cambridge using the navigational strategy of ‘let’s go down that street, it’s sunny there’ and eventually found our way back home. To watch two seasons of Gavin & Stacey. I’m not going to lie to you, the episodes weren’t all in the right order, but it was cracking nonetheless. Absolutely lush. And now Barry Island has made it to the top of our list of places to go in Wales.