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taleteller last won the day on January 31 2019

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  1. I shall not bore you with a Sunday spent on the beach, at least no more than is necessary to call back to mind those wonderful, warm sunny days. It is raining here, it has been raining here for nearly two months. In fact it has rained so much over the past few weeks I'm considering installing an electricity post in my driveway and letting it out as moorings. In recent days there has been a real change, the rain has turned cold, really cold. Did it really never rain in those long remembered summers or does our subconscious self erase the memories of the rainy days, leaving only week after week of perpetual sunshine? Monday dawned sunny, bright and warm, of course. This was to be trials day. We must successfully navigate the dyke and back if we were to be permitted the trip to Beccles later in the week. Of course, we had no doubt that we would complete the test satisfactorily but still the anticipation was palpable. Breakfast was eaten with the urgency of a man who needs to be somewhere else. My first attempt to burst forth from the caravan and enact my impersonation of Lasse Viren was stifled by a recall in the form of mother reminding me to brush my teeth. Even todays electric toothbrushes cannot move as fast as did that chunky lump of plastic which passed for a toothbrush in those days, lashing my blob of Gibbs SR into a foaming frenzy and leaving me with the appearance of a rabid dog. A quick rinse, spit on the go and I was off, out of the traps like Red Rum on ractopamine. Along the row of caravans, through the hole in the hedge, up the driveway past the reception, up the sloping wooden bridge over the Landspring Creek, through the gateway and across Knight's Creek's hard then out onto the concrete jetty at the end of which lay the boat on which Billy lived with Aunt Mary, Uncle Jonny and his sister Claire, nicknamed chocolatey for obvious reasons. Uncle Jonny was sitting in the wheelhouse cleaning his pipe with the small blade of his pocket knife, working the ash loose from the bowl and tapping it onto a wooden noggin before returning to work with the blade. When Uncle Jonny was aboard manners were indispensable, one never stepped aboard without first asking permission of the boat's master. Not all the urgency in the world could excuse one from failing in such manners, and so I dutifully stopped on the quayside and hailed the request as I had been taught. Permission to come aboard sir! Billy was still eating his corn flakes, enrobed in pyjamas and dressing gown. Was he not aware of the importance of the day? Would Robin Knox Johnson be sat at table taking breakfast at such a moment. Come on down he said, there's no rush. Low on the broad isn't for another two hours, 11:27. I checked at the Yacht Station yesterday. There's a fair wind to help us up the dyke but we'll need the tide with us coming back unless we want to engage engines. We'll leave in about an hour, then we can stop for an hour's fishing at Painter's before we turn back. We'll have all of the flood behind us then, just right. Aunt Mary poured three glasses of orange juice from a bottle, a pint milk bottle in which the juice was delivered alongside the milk and offered one each to Billy, Claire and to me. I could do little but sit and wait, and drink my juice whilst Billy finished his breakfast, washed and dressed and then endured the delay of tooth brushing for a second time. Eventually, finally, each carrying an engine, aka an oar we set off to find "Harnser" She was sat, pulled up on a small sandy beach which once adorned the southern edge of the broad, long gone now, dug out and turned into yet more private moorings. In order to move her Billy attached a short rope to each rowlock which we used those to drag her to the waterline. Once there we switched our efforts to the transom, pushing the boat like some dysfunctional motor car inch by inch into the water. It was much easier pulling with the ropes than trying to push! Slowly that part of the boat technically known as the front, at least to an eight year old, began to float and soon we were climbing over the transom, easier said than done, and shipping the oars. We'll row back to the boat, pick up the fishing rods and get the sail up once we get out into the open water Billy said. I wondered if this was the right moment to tell Billy that I had no idea how to sail a boat, in fact I'd only learned to row during a school trip to Butlins at Bognor Regis some weeks earlier. Billy pulled steadily out onto the broad. Oh crikey, he said. Nearly forgot, we'd have been in all sorts of trouble if I had. I looked at him blankly. With seeming nonchalance he stood up, reached under the forward thwart and pulled out a Fine Fare carrier bag inside which were two life jackets. I'll swear they were ex war department "Mae Wests" which draped over your head and then tied around your midriff. We'd have been done for sure If we turned up at the boat without life jackets Billy said, Uncle Jonny would have grounded us for a month. Billy continued to row us around the edge of the broad the short distance to the house boat and as we glided slowly towards it Uncle Jonny appeared on deck, taking Harnser's forepeak in his giant hand and guided us alongside. He lowered a canvas work bag and matching rod bag down which Billy stowed neatly along the starboard gunwale and a small plastic margarine tub with holes melted in the lid which Billy explained was full of worms. Next came a rudder, which Billy, with some effort lifted over the stern and did something which he tried to explain with gudgeons and pintles and then finally came the mast, with main sail and boom lashed to it which dropped through a hole in the forward thwart and into a block below. Next came a little reorganisation. Billy directed me to the centre thwart whilst taking position in the stern. He undid a pair of ties which lashed mast, sail and boom together then untied a knot at the base of the mast and unhooked the rope from the cleat and slowly fed that rope, hand over hand up the mast and as he did so the boom gently lowered. He took hold of it as it came down and then let go of the rope and it flew up the mast and through an eye near the top, catching it neatly as it fell back to the deck. He tied the rope to the rear cleat to lock off the boom just as the wind caught the sail and it began to fill. We'll drop the centreboard later he said, we don't need it yet with the wind abaft. We were just about to cast off when Aunt Mary appeared with a small basket covered with a tea cloth. A bite and a drink to keep you going she said. As the melodic chimes of the cabin's mantle clock struck the half hour Uncle Jonny gave us a gentle push and we were away. 10:30 said Billy. Perfect.
  2. And so the great wheel turns. In the blink of an eye another summer has come and gone. The plans we made in springtime are now committed to the file marked "memories". Some of those plans bore fruit, others did not but we look forward to one last trip to our beloved Suffolk next week, a final hurrah before the fading year and changing clocks turn evenings into night. It's been a strange summer, one moment boiling hot with temperatures over a hundred degrees, the next moment wet and windy. For the first time in many a year we have had to water the trees in the orchard only to see subsequent weeks bring torrential rain which has turned the pathways through the meadow into streams and restored the old pond which has not been seen since I was a lad. We used to skate on it in winter, but ponds are no longer fashionable, robbing the farmer of valuable pasture and winter grazing. All the drainage in the world would not be able to disperse the water which has fallen these past few weeks. The weather has finally driven me indoors. Breakfast tea normally taken in the summer house is now in the kitchen, sat in my favourite wing back by the French window looking over the lawn to the orchard and meadow beyond. The doors are still open but not for much longer, there is a real chill to the morning air these last few days. The swallows are long gone, off to Africa to avoid the winter chills. Their are geese flying overhead now, arrivals from the ice bound lands of Eastern Russia and Scandanavia. We shall enjoy their company for the next few months. I hope they do not plan on over wintering on the pond though. Even as I type I am watching the farmer, mattock in hand dragging the obstructions from the drainage ditches. It will soon be gone, an old friend making one last visit. It has been a summer of farewells. a number of friends if not lifelong then of long standing who have taken their final rest. The mourning suit has had a near weekly booking at the dry cleaners and I have seen a greater selection of our nations crematoria than I ever desired. I wondered at one point if I might start "video blogging" about them but decided their are already too many people inflicting their opinions of subjects ranging from the bizarre to the ridiculous upon us that the world can do without my efforts. What a difference to those childhood summers in Oulton Broad. Each one lasted a lifetime, or so it seemed. We lived for fun, without a care. Rain never stopped play, only the supper bell could do that. I am sorry I have taken some time to write this next episode of what my dear friend Dame Hilda might call "random jottings". I rather left you in the lurch, plans afoot for our epic voyage to Beccles. Would we allowed to go, would we make it? What might befall us along the way? All shall soon be revealed.
  3. And what dreams they were ….
  4. Once tea was over we helped with the washing up (do you remember those days, when children helped with the washing up ….?). With everything ship shape we returned to the wheel house and Billy produced a pencil case which contained his drawing pencils and set about decorating the front cover of out boats log. "What's your boat called" I asked. Well it don't really have a name Billy replied. Never gave it one. It has to have a name I said, what will we put on the front of the log book. We can hardly call it Billy's Boat! I know Billy said, we'll call her Harnser. And so Harnser it was. We'll have to have a naming ceremony, we'll do that tomorrow Billy said. Can't I said, I have to go out with the olds tomorrow, we could do it Monday. I expected an objection from Billy, he didn't like his plans being upset and this hadn't been the best day for his plans, but he agreed. Monday it is he said. We'll have to get it our of the water somehow he said, but leave that with me. Why? I asked. Can't give a boat a new name in the water, bad luck that is. Gotta be on the hard. We'll take it up by the sailing club, there's a bit of a beach there where we can drag her out. Why not use the slip here I asked. Daren't Billy said, it's concrete and without a trailer we'll scratch her to pieces. Better by the clubhouse, it's soft there. And so the cover of our ships log was inscribed with the words: To Beccles & Beyond. The Voyage of the mv Harnser. Billy decorated it with a beautiful pencil drawing of a Harnser, which Aunt Mary added some water colours to. Perfect I said. I'll try and get round after we get back tomorrow. And with that, and the sun sinking towards the western horizon I made my way back to our caravan. On arrival the beds were made. Since before time began my older sisters had slept on the beds which, during the daytime made up the side seats of the U shaped seating at the front of the caravan with me occupying the shorter section under the window. This year I was to have the dining table, made into a double bed. You're getting too big for that little bed mother announced. An air of melancholy descended. I was the only boy in the family and had my own bedroom at home whilst my sisters shared. I liked sharing the caravan whilst we were on holiday, but now it seemed that time had come to an end. As we sat in the beds drinking our ovaltine (yes, we were ovaltinies in those days) mother announced the grand plan. When our two week holiday came to an end Aunt Mary had offered for me to stay with Billy on their boat for an extra two weeks. Billy and Claire would swap rooms leaving enough room for a spare bed to be made up on the floor. If I wanted to of course. Wanted to, I was almost speechless. Of course I wanted to. I ran towards the door … where are you going mother said as she looked on in shock. To tell Billy I said. Not at this time of night she replied, it will keep until you see him again. Parents! They break such news then stop you sharing it with the world. We headed to the shower block which was conveniently just through a gap in the hedge from our caravan and washed then back to the 'van. Teeth were brushed, pyjamas were donned and into bed we crawled. Mother turned down the gas lights until just a feint orange glow emitted from the mantles and sat on the seat which once was my bed and took out her knitting. How she could see in the dim light I never knew, I thought she was joking when she said she could knit by feel alone. Father was out, he'd be upriver in the boat fishing one of his favourite spots until well after dark, his faithful hurricane lamp guiding him home when he decided the bream had had enough of him. I would never get to sleep I thought. I would have to tell him what was happening when he got back. By the time a dark figure clad in his khaki waterproofs crunched gently along the gravel driveway and deposited his fishing tackle under the edge of the caravan I was lost to all but the world of dreams.
  5. There is a short but interesting piece relating to a pair of Brookes belonging to the Richardson's fleet when it was based at Oulton Broad on Carol's excellent Broadland Memories site HERE I wonder if the two I am thinking of moved from Richardson's to Camping Boats when they moved to Stalham in 1957. Clive might know if any were left behind.
  6. According to the Suffolk Archive there is a photograph of him showing hirers over a launch on Oulton Broad at Lowestoft Library. I already have a list of pictures in that archive I would like to view, I have added this one to my list. Hopefully when we visit next month I will find time to pop in.
  7. Eating below decks was quite a treat. Uncle Jonny's boat was always immaculate and a children's tea party below decks would have given him apoplexy. Let me describe the boat a little. It was, by Uncle Jonny's own proclamation, a mongrel. It had been a fishing boat, then a work boat, then finally a houseboat. During the last conversion the open foredeck had been enclosed and a superstructure added forward of the wheelhouse which contained two cabins and the head. The raised wheelhouse was accessed by a sliding doors to port and starboard, and contained not only the helm but also a map table and chart locker. Bench seating had been added and this is where we ate most of the time. Aft of the wheelhouse a companionway led down three steps to the saloon which housed a small galley, a U shaped dining table which just sat four, with a stool, a pair of rocking chairs, a small pot bellied stove and the wireless set which was the boats only entertainment. A lantern top had been added to increase the headroom along the centre of the saloon and bring in extra light to supplement that from the four small, oval shaped portholes, which had the most ornate opening mechanism I have ever seen. No television of course. The saloon was lit at night time by a pair of oil lamps which hung, one from the forward and one from the aft bulkhead in brightly polished brass gimbals. Aft of that was the master cabin with a double berth, wardrobe and not much else. Forward from the wheel house you went through a strange companionway in that it was more of a ladder than a stairway, down a cutaway in the wheelhouse floor and through a low doorway into a five sided passageway on the starboard side. It was OK for eight year olds, but otherwise headroom was quite limited. There was a porthole window to match those of the saloon under which was built a small shelf and shoe rack. There were always fresh flowers in a small vase on that shelf, and use of the shoe rack was very high on the list of ships rules. Whenever you came on board "outside" shoes were removed and placed on that rack. Three sides of that ***** little passageway consisted of doors. One into the head, with a blakes toilet and sit down bath tub and boat standard porthole, one door straight ahead into Billy's cabin and a door between them at a 45 degree angle into Claire's slightly larger cabin. Each cabin had a bed built on an angle in to the vee of the bow and mostly tucked away under the side deck, but Claire's was slightly larger and could be extended into a double berth courtesy of some clever joinery and the cushions from a small bench seat. Claire's cabin also had a small desk and a wardrobe. Billy's was smaller, with just the bunk, and a small chest alongside. Claire arrived back just in time for tea which consisted of cheese scones, fruit cake and a pot of tea. It was simple, and absolutely delicious. She had, I was told been horse riding, to my eyes Claire very much resembled a young foal, gangly, with arms and legs too long and spindly, but I kept that opinion to myself. She glowered at me as she came on board. I wasn't sure what I had done to deserve such a greeting, but once tea was over I was to find out.
  8. Only in respect of Baron Morris, the former Labour politician and Life Peer. I studied much of his work, and once heard him lecture on social history, though I doubt it is the Alf Morris you refer to.
  9. as well as a range of wooden dinghies and later grp dinghies and covered day boats, (the "seamasters") there were four wooden launches at Camping Boats. The three I knew were Jock, the largest was an open clinker planked boat with an inboard diesel roughly amidships in a wooden enclosure, which you had to squeeze past to move from the front to rear of the boat, but made a marvellous picnic table. She had an open bow and seated 10 in total. I'm pretty sure she was not a Brooke. The other two looked remarkably similar to the two boats in your original photo. One was called Skipper and very similar to your Rupert, even down to the lines of the rubbing strake but sadly had been painted two tone blue. The other was Kim, which we thought of as larger as she had greater seating capacity but that was perhaps largely due to Skippers long covered bow and they may well have been very similar in size. A fourth was called Gypsy but I don't remember her much, certainly we never hired her. It was suggested on another forum that Kim was the owners private launch but we hired her many times. I wonder if the memory is mixed slightly and that Gypsy belonged to the owner. Certainly Kim was dads favourite as she allowed him more room for fishing, whilst I always preferred Skipper for her elegant lines. I am looking at the photos of Rupert with more than a tinge of emerald envy in my eyes. She's very handsome. I have no real reason to believe that Skipper or Kim were Brooke's other than the fact that they were, I know sourced from Lowestoft, and the possibility of them having come to the yard as kits makes even more sense. Jock I believe was an ex RN open sea boat.
  10. Hi jwb. Do you have any history of Brooke's on the Broads? A company called Camping Boats hired out three wooden day launches on Oulton Broad in the 1960's and 70's, two of which I believe were made by Brooke at Lowestoft. I wonder if you know anything of them?
  11. Spare a thought for the children of today. They will never have many of the opportunities which we had. Never will they know the joy of walking into a sweet shop with a thruppenny bit and buying two ounces of "mixed" …. Sherbet Lemons and Pear Drops. Never will they experience the thrill of the rattle of those little morsels of wonder as the shopkeeper shakes the glass jar to loosen them. Never will they know the suspense of waiting to see if the balance would tip, or if that last precious candy, teetering on the lip of the jar would make it in to your brown paper bag. Nor, I doubt would a pair of eight year olds be sent out for the day, to navigate alone along many miles of tidal river armed only with a bottle of pop, our bag of "mixed", lifejackets, three shillings, and our own common sense. Oh, don't forget the log book and pencil. The world was a safer place then, or so I am told. I am not entirely convinced of this, I just think that many of the dangers were not understood, or even imagined and so sent out on our voyage we were. Much happened between Saturday evening and Thursday morning, which turned out to be Wednesday. We rattled back to Billy's house boat and jumped on board to a chorus from below decks of "mind where your jumping, I have the kettle on the stove", from Aunt Mary of course. We headed down the companionway from the wheelhouse to the saloon with as much calm as we could muster before making the big announcement. Our big announcement was trumped immediately by the news that Aunt Mary had already spoken to my parents, to see if they approved of our journey, which thankfully they did, but that Thursday would not be possible as that day has already been earmarked for our visit to Potter Heigham then on to see family in Mundesley. I was not too upset, taking in the thought of going to see my Great Aunt which was always a highlight of the holiday, she was a lovely lady, but Billy looked like he was standing beneath a sky that was starting to fall around his ears. "But Aunt Mary", he responded, we have to go on Thursday, the tides will be right and everything. The look which Aunt Mary returned told us immediately that the matter was not open to debate. I have spoken with your parents and they have suggested Wednesday or Friday, but Uncle Jonny says the tide will suit better on Wednesday. It's later on Friday and we don't want you out too late. Remember too that you've to show to Uncle Jonny that you can navigate the Dyke before you go, you can do that on Monday. "That won't be a problem Aunt Mary", I sang out, "Billy says" … ouch! The kick to my left ankle was accurate and sharp. I stared at Billy and continued my somewhat revised statement, Billy says that he's sure he knows enough to get to the top of the dyke and back alright. "He should do, the number of times he's been fishing up at Buttler's, or Painter's Mill", Aunt Mary replied. Billy went white, the brightly glossed paintwork of the cabin roof was dull by comparison to his complexion right then. Do you think that Uncle Jonny doesn't know, well he does. There's not much happens on the water hereabouts that Uncle Jonny doesn't know. It'll pay you both well to remember that, especially on Wednesday. The warning was taken, and tucked away safely as a mental note. You can stay to tea, I've agreed it with your parents. Uncle Jonny won't be back until late today so we will eat down here.
  12. We decided that a proper plan should be made. More than that, a log should be kept. That meant a log book, and a pencil. We ran through the park and to the shop in Oulton Broad where a small notebook and an HB pencil were acquired for twelve pence. The next port of call we decided should be the harbour master's office where we could obtain details of the tides for the rest of the week. When travelling along the Waveney in an unpowered boat travelling with the tide was essential. Even an eight year old knows that! We ran along the boulevard but the harbour master was nowhere to be seen. His office was locked but there was a chalkboard on the wall with todays low water times at Oulton Broad, we could work it out from that. Couldn't we? I looked at Billy and asked "how?" Low water is the same time at Beccles as it is here, he explained, and it moves forward about forty five minutes every day. On top of that we know that the tide comes in for five hours, sits still for half, then goes out for six he said. I looked on amazed at this font of knowledge, but I was a bit alarmed that his calculations only added up to eleven and a half hours. by my reckoning we were missing an hour and a bit somewhere. A cloud came across Billy's face, in just a second his look turned from one of intense excitement to that of an airline pilot who had just worked out that his aeroplane was running out of fuel. We've got a problem he said. I looked at him, hardly daring to speak, what? I croaked. The tide is too early. Low water this morning was 4:45 he explained, that means tomorrow it will be 5:30, or near enough. Add five and a half hours that means high water at Beccles will be 11:00. We'll barely have time to get there and we'll have to turn back and come home. That was when it struck me that Billy was planning to go tomorrow, but we couldn't! We can't go tomorrow I said, my mum will want to take us to the beach, we always went to the beach on the first proper day of holiday. And we still have to try out going to the river, I said. Remember your Uncle said we can only go if we get up to the river and back OK. I'd forgotten that, Billy said. But it'll be alright. I often go up to the river, the best fishing spots are right on the corner where the dyke turns into the river, but don't tell Uncle Johnny, he doesn't know. Anyway, he said, later in the week the tides will be better. He paused for a moment, lost in concentration. If high water in Beccles is about eleven tomorrow, he said, it will be quarter to twelve on Monday, half past on Tuesday, quarter past one on Wednesday and two o'clock on Thursday. He paused again, looked at me and in the hushed tones of a spy about to reveal his greatest secret he whispered. "We go on Thursday".
  13. I'm not sure Rush were too good on Roller Skates ….. Do you find that time seems to move faster now than it did? Are there less hours in a day? I set myself a list of tasks to complete on Friday ahead of a garden party and barbecue today. I knew yesterday would be taken up by shopping and baking so was keen to have everything in the garden ready. By 7pm I was nowhere near finished. I should explain that we are undertaking a major redesign of part of the rear garden, removing, piece by piece the paraphernalia of the builders yard that our garden once was. needless to say I was left to mow the bottom lawn and get the garden furniture out this morning, the conundrum being to do it early and annoy the neighbours or wait for a sensible hour and risk being still at work as guests arrived. Compare that then to those days of childhood in Norfolk and especially the first time we were allowed to take my friends boat out onto the river. My friend was Billy, who lived on a boat on the broad with his sister Jennifer, Uncle Johnny and Aunt Mary. Uncle Johnny had worked around boats all his life and both Jennifer and Billy were true "water rats". I don't remember first meeting them, they simply always were, since before I could remember. The first order of business on arrival was always to go and knock on the wheelhouse door of their boat and say hello. Milkshake and cookies would quickly be produced by Aunt Mary as we caught up. Eight year olds have lots if catching up to when you haven't seen each other for fifty weeks. Billy would pass on what was new around the broad and would invariably have a plan for how we would spend the next two weeks. Imagine the excitement then when Billy broke the news that subject to my parents approval we would be allowed, for the first time, to take Billy's boat out of the Broad, along the the dyke and into the river. As long as that went well then we would be allowed to make our first "unassisted" expedition to Beccles. As usual on that first Saturday, after tea in the caravan I was allowed to go back out to play and Billy and I headed for the park, but unlike in previous years there was no football, no cricket today, Instead we sat cross legged staring over the water towards the entrance to Oulton Dyke and slowly, deliberately, we made our plans for Beccles …..
  14. Isn't it funny how sometimes a completely random, unexpected event can awaken a memory of so many years ago? I had cause to drive up to Edinburgh today to fulfil a promise I made some years ago to attend the opening of a friends business. Today was the day it finally happened and so rather than take the easy option of flying I decided to make an early start and drive. I left early, very early. My plan was to put Newcastle behind me before the day was truly awake then stop for breakfast at a favourite haunt just of the A1 south of Berwick Upon Tweed. All went to plan and it proved to be an enjoyable day if fairly uneventful, but long. Very long. With three hundred miles between me and home I was glad when the formalities were finally complete and after a polite amount of socialising I made my excuses, and my escape. I left Edinburgh just before rush hour really got into full swing, allowing that busiest time on the roads to pass me by as I chewed up the miles on the A1. By the time I made it back as far as Newcastle rush hour would be over. I had toyed with the idea of visiting Lindisfarne on the way home. It is a special place for me and somewhere that I have not visited since my mother passed away some years ago. Sadly the crossing times for the causeway were not favourable, so as I passed the Beal turn off the A1 I made a silent promise to visit again soon. Sadly, my favourite transport cafe on the A1 is no more. A victim of the recent road improvements which have left it severed from it's passing trade by thirty yards of grass and a fourteen foot bank. The building stands empty now, awaiting the onset of dereliction unless some other use can be found for it. From the boarded windows with the word “CLOSED” whitewashed across them you would not believe that just a few short years ago it was the place to get food on the A1. So now I am devoid of ideas on where to find food, and since that triple sausage bacon and egg full English went down at eight o'clock this morning I have eaten precisely two blinis with something on which claimed to be caviar but tasted more like tiny balls of wallpaper paste and a mushroom vol-au-vent which was close to inedible. I pulled off the A1 at Coxhoe and found a takeaway. The Pizza was about as good as the earlier canapes and the coffee was warm and brown but I doubt it had much to do with the Coffea plant but I was too hungry to turn my nose up at it and still a good three hours from home. So I swung the car around and headed back to the A1 and set the three pointed star on the bonnet for home. And here comes that random moment (you didn't think I'd forgotten did you?) By now the sun has set and the sky is a beautiful pale orange turning to dark blue. It isn't really dark yet, it's that brief moment of evening when, even on the motorway it's a sheer delight to be out with the roof down. At that moment the digital radio station I was listening to played Xanadu, you remember? Olivia Newton John and ELO. Instantly I was carried back to the summers in Norfolk, a memory so strong I could almost taste it, almost reach out and touch it, almost but not quite. It sent a shiver down my back. I'm sure the water leaking from my eye was a consequence of the freshening breeze blowing round my spectacles. I categorise my time in Norfolk in to two distinct eras. The first as a child, which ran roughly, I would guess until I was around eleven or twelve, then adolescence, when the focus of our attentions changed. As a child the focus of our world was Oulton Broad, the water itself, the park and one or two other locations we hung out. As we grew older that shifted more to Lowestoft and to Heathland Beach. During the last days, in fact the very last summer in Norfolk Xanadu was the big summer hit. We played it on the beach every night. In truth there are probably three eras in play, I discount the one which pre-dates my memories though there were several visits to Camping Boats in that period. My very first memory is, in truth not my own but afforded me by that pensieve which is elder siblings. It recalls that occasion when as a tot dressed in wellington boots and duffel coat I was enjoying splashing in the puddles by the landspring drain which ran through the site until, inevitably I splashed in a puddle which was not a puddle but the creek itself. I disappeared from site momentarily and as I bobbed back to the surface my eldest sister grabbed me by the hood and dragged me to the bank where I was hauled back on to terra firma.
  15. Saturday usually began at or just after first light. The trusty “torpedo” camping stove came out and the first thing on was the kettle. Whilst the girls walked the dog, named Sandy who was a basenji, for those who have asked, I was despatched to tell father that the kettle was on. This was an implied instruction from mother that it was time he was packing up. Tell your mother I'll have one more cast was the invariable reply as I was press ganged into service as a donkey, carrying the little bits and pieces like his net bag whilst he catapulted the last of his ground bait into the river and packed his basket and rod bag. I noted that more often than not his nets were dry. He was good my dad, at fishing at least, but he never seemed to do much on the Old Bedford. Once the tea was made a ready prepared frying pan appeared from the boot of the car, full of part cooked sausage and bacon and it was put on the stove to finish off whilst mum sliced and buttered rolls. The reason for our early start was Downham Market, where the A1101 crossed the A10 King's Lynn to London road in the town centre. Nowadays both roads have bypasses, the former to the south of the town, the latter to the east. Mother would be keen to get through Downham before this otherwise sleepy little town awoke to the weekly chores of shopping and such like. East of Downham we turn onto the A134 towards Thetford. With Thetford behind us the greenery of the forest gave way to the rolling greenery of the Waveney Valley as we continue east on the A1066 towards Diss. The arrival in Diss was always met by the regurgitation of many, generations old jokes. “if this is Diss, where is Dat? And, is this Diss Mere? No it's Dat dare ….” They seemed funny at the time. Of course we loved them because, as much as the familiar landmarks which we passed by, they were waymarkers of our journey. An indication that we were getting close to our destination. At Scole the A1066 crosses the A140 which ran north – south through the centre of the village. This was not quite so bad to cross as other roads as it was a staggered crossroads, left then right. The right turn was easy to miss, and it took dad yelling at mum on one occasion, “turn right there, by the fellow with the blue shirt”. To this day that junction is referred to as “the man with the blue shirt”. From this point onwards the road we travelled is hardly recognisable. East of Scole the 1066 joined the A143, almost completely rebuilt in more recent years along the line of a disused railway. Much of the old road is still in use now numbered the B1062 which winds it way through the village of Brockdish, more age old puns, and then through the pretty village of Harleston where petrol was obtained from a garage straight from the 1930's. The pump was inside the garage window and the delivery pipe hung from a gantry out over the road. You didn't pull in, simply parked on the road outside and would be served with your five gallons of four star. It was there that I remember vividly my mother remarking that the price had reached fifty pence per gallon. I think that would have been during the oil crisis of 1973/4. “Ten bob a gallon, where will it end” she asked? Harleston is bypassed today, as are most of the towns and villages between here and the East Coast, which whilst a blessed relief to residents I have no doubt, is still somewhat of a shame. The road continues to Bungay but before we arrive there is another stop to be made. I grew up in an age where everything had it's season and as a result we looked forward to them. One such item, perhaps the queen of seasonal produce was the Strawberry, it arrived in the shops is June and was gone by September. It was the essence of English summer and it was best enjoyed straight from the field, and that is what we did. Pick your own was not the widespread industry that it is today, it hadn't achieved it's current day status of family day out but there was a large pick your own farm near Earsham and we stopped and filled basket upon basket with large juicy fruits ready to permeate our holidays with pies, flans, scones or at their best with the lightest sprinkling of sugar and lashings of fresh cream. If you have only sampled strawberries from a supermarket then you have never tasted a real strawberry. There is a world of difference between something grown in a field, ripened by the sun and, dare I say it fertilized with horse muck and the bland, watery, pale imitations proffered by Mssrs Sainsbury et al, heavily hybridised varieties bred for yield at the cost of flavour, grown in huge poly tunnels, usually in Spain or Turkey or Egypt and increasingly in India in troughs of water suspended at the perfect height for picking and ripened to order by artificial light. They never see the sun, they never sit in soil and they never develop any flavour. With baskets (and my tummy!) full we climbed back into the car to complete our journey. The final stretch to Oulton Broad. I remember Bungay from my childhood as a colourful, pretty little market town. We passed through the centre of the town and onwards to Beccles. It would soon be time to start searching the horizon for the giant, four legged cranes which in those days stood on the quayside at Lowestoft and could be seen from miles away. With Beccles andWorlingham behind us we joined the A 146 bound for Oulton. Despite many recent improvements, straightening and widening this road largely still travels it's original course, past North Cove and Barnby into Carlton Colville and finally Oulton Broad. Our caravan park was at the end of Marsh Road which turns back sharply from the main road. Today, this left turn is prohibited, a complete circuit of the new roundabout on Saltwater way and a right turn being the preferred manner of entry onto Marsh Road. But in the 1970's a left turn it was, waiting for oncoming traffic to clear and then swinging wide across both lanes and then down by the railway station along the somewhat bumpy lane, past the “new” holiday chalets, Knight's Creek and finally to Camping Boats.
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