Tuesday, 28 June 2011

A Very English Birthday


Selina and Mo
My birthday came and went, and what a fabulous time I had. Pip and Selina drove all the way up from Hampshire on Friday to celebrate with me (a four-hour trip), arriving at noon for just an overnighter. After adding their generous contributions (a big chocolate birthday cake, mint chocolates, and bottles of wine) to my picnic basket of lemon/ginger chicken, Cec’s potato salad, fresh veggies with humous, and fat pimento-stuffed green olives, we were off. It was fine day, as it always seems to be on my Mid Summers Day birthday. We first drove east to Great Yarmouth and then wound our way up the coast to Cromer, where we found a shelter above the beach and out of the wind to enjoy our picnic lunch.


After having our fill of food and sipping a glass or two of Perseco rosé, we packed up and pointed the Discovery in the direction of Holkham. All three of us had just finished reading A Scandalous Life – the biography of Jane Digby by Mary S. Lovell, and wanted to visit the country home where this wonderfully wild adventurer spent most of her childhood – at least in the summer time. Their house in London was probably as big or bigger.

Selina and Pip
When we got to Holkham we first walked down to the famous beach where Shakespeare in Love was filmed – a broad, golden expanse of rising dunes with the greeney-blue ocean beyond. When you turn and look back over your shoulder, you see the road that leads past the gatehouses to the imposing wrought-iron gates of Holkham Hall. 

It was after 6:00 and when we got there, but a man who emerged from the gatehouse said we were welcome to park the car and go through the smaller gate if we wanted to walk around. What a treat – we were the only obvious people around on these 3000 acres of manicured lawns and shady woods. We passed herds of deer grazing – the sign said there were over 800 hundred of them – and saw swans languidly floating on the calm surface of the lake. I tried to imagine which one of the possibly 200 bedrooms Jane’s would have been and imagined her riding her horse through this treed landscape every morning after breakfast. For better photos of Holkham Hall, go to http://www.holkham.co.uk/.

Holkham Hall - Jane Digby's digs during the early 1800s.
After what probably amounted in total to a two-mile walk, we made our way to the car and took the slow route back to Norwich along narrow country lanes, past endless rolling fields of new crops. When we arrived back in town, Pip and Selina insisted on taking me out for dinner, so I suggested the only place I know – Cinema City! The food was delicious – Selina and I had lobster and crayfish wrapped in nori and shared a bottle of crisp, chilled New Zealand sauvignon blanc, while Pip, as designated driver, had a non-alcoholic beer with lime and a creamy fish pie. When we got back to the flat, we stayed up late and reminisced, even though I’d just seen them at Easter. Old friends never seem to run out of things to say to each other. Before I fell into bed at the end of a perfect birthday, I turned on my computer and read my emails with all the birthday wishes from family and friends at home and further afield - a perfect way to end the day.


In the morning, I made us a breakfast of coffee, streaky bacon, eggs, fried tomatoes, and cheese scones, which was enough to sustain us for the whole day, almost. We drove to the city centre and toured Norwich Cathedral, wandered through the narrow shop-lined lanes, and before long, it was time for Pip and Selina to bit me adieu and make the return trip to Wield. I didn’t feel sad saying goodbye though because I’ll be seeing them again in two weeks when I’ll head down south by train and spend another few days with them. 

There was no time to feel lonely either after they left because Nancy arrived back from Morocco on Sunday evening, looking fabulous and tanned, and we’ve had a great time ever since catching up with each other’s news. Her timing is perfect because I’ll be able to ask her to fill in any blanks I might have with my dissertation before submitting it to the UEA middle to end of July. Because I have only a few weeks left here in the UK, we’re planning to take a couple of trips by train before I head back to Canada - Edinburgh being one destination. I'm so happy that Nancy has agreed to come with me to the Royal Military Tattoo at the Edinburgh Festival, August 4th to 6th, which I thought I'd be doing alone. 

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