Virgin Mary Chocolates

   

Saturday 13th June

The cat is depressed. To add insult to injury, not only has he has been usurped by a flock of chickens, but he’s also been savagely bitten on the head by his arch-rival, William, the black and white mog from over the fence. 

In my usual style, I decide to let nature take its course and allow the wound to heal naturally, thus avoiding any hefty  vet’s bills. Except the cat’s wounds never heal by themselves, and a week later I take him on the inevitable trip to the surgery where I pay £93 for a course of antibiotics and to be told that he might have fleas. 

I wouldn’t mind if this information was given in the privacy of the consulting room, but no, the vet waits until we are back at reception and comes to announce it in a large stage whisper, allowing the whole of the waiting room to hear. A little bit of me dies of shame.

This weekend it will be a relief to get away from the cat with his mournful look and his fixation with the chickens. It has not yet been established as to whether he is capable of murdering them or not.

  

Tom and I are going to stay at a wonderful B&B near the North Norfolk coast, called The Control Tower http://controltowerstays.com. It is an ex-World War Two RAF air base that the owners have lovingly restored back to its 1940s origins. This is a last birthday present to myself and I’m very excited. 

  
The kids are being picked up by uncle Tim and auntie Ella, and are spending the night at Ella’s parents’ in rural Norfolk (Ella’s mother made a previous  blog appearance under the pseudonym Chinese Gilly in Chicken Noodle Soup). 

Tim’s enthusiasm for having the kids on this maiden night away with them, knows no bounds. Every text I get tells of more planned adventures: treasure hunts and boat trips to secret islands; swimming and afternoon tea; barbecues and board games. This is a man after my own heart. I am almost regretful that I’m missing out on all the fun, and then I remember that I’ll be lounging in a hotel room and the feeling quickly goes. 

Tim and Ella’s arrival to pick up the kids on Saturday morning coincides with that of good-friend-Lynsey and toddler Tommy, who are visiting from Lincolnshire. Lynsey’s visit is preceded by a birthday card in the post addressed to Sara Lund-Collier. 

I shouldn’t need to explain who Sara Lund is, but in case you haven’t been bitten by the Scandi-drama bug, she is the Danish detective from The Killing. In another life, I would also be a detective. It’s been a dream job since my early forays into the likes of The Famous Five, Agatha Christie and Sherlock Holmes. 

Lynsey arrives with the best present a detective-loving girl could want: a Sara Lund style jumper. Sara is famous for her chunky Scandi knitwear and I’ve been hankering after such a jumper for years. Tom was going to buy me one three years ago, but they aren’t cheap, and he realised that for the same price, he could buy two Ryanair tickets to Copenhagen instead, and see the home of The Killing for real. 

We spent a fun weekend pretending to be as cool as the Danes, and then ruining it by chasing after what looked like Troels Hartmann on a bike, in the hope of getting a photograph with him.

As we exit Norwich for The Control Tower, the rain is lashing down but we are met with a warm welcome at the B&B from Claire and Nigel. We sit in their 1940s style lounge and drink tea and eat cake whilst chatting about the place. One look at their bookshelves and the brilliant trade union poster in the hall and I feel very at home.

  
We are shown to our room and Tom braves the rain to get our bags from the car while I sit in bed with a second cup of tea, eating Booja Booja Champagne Truffles and reading The Greengage Summer. I couldn’t be happier. 

  

  
  
In the evening we go to nearby Walsingham for dinner. The village is famed for its religious shrines in honour of the Virgin Mary and is a major pilgrimage centre. My one and only visit there was twenty three years ago and the place spooked me out. The village was quaint enough but every window was lined with religious icons, or at least that’s how I remember it. I’m intrigued to know what the place is like now; was it just a case of a fourteen year old with an over-active imagination?

   
Nope, I was right. I should have more faith in myself. We park by the Let The Children Live shop (it is not clear what this shop is selling) and walk to The Black Lion Hotel. Everyone we pass is Irish and carrying a candle. 

  
After what can only be described as a superb dinner, we step back out in the drizzly, dark evening. A sea fret has rolled in and as we walk down the deserted high street I squeeze Tom’s arm a little tighter and hum the tune to a horror film. I’m frightening myself more than anyone else. Through the fog I can see the silhouette of someone approaching. It’s a priest. I feel like I’m in the midst of a whodunit. 

We turn a corner and the village opens out into a square. The only light comes from another pub opposite. We watch as two priests exit in a raucous fashion; there is much revelry in a scene that would not look out of place in Father Ted.

   
 The next morning, we are served a delectable vegetarian breakfast (no, I’m not following in Ollie’s footsteps; the B&B is veggie). I start with delicious stewed rhubarb and fresh strawberries, followed by a cooked breakfast. Every one of my freefrom needs is catered for, from almond milk for my tea, to gluten-free cereal and dairy-free spread. It is much appreciated, and with great reluctance that we leave The Control Tower an hour later.

After, we return to Walsingham so I can take some pictures in the daylight. We walk around the shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham. I still appear to be hanging off Tom. Instead of being filled with a sense of calm, I find it all a bit, well, creepy, verging on sinister (I’m not the only one, a girl on Tripadvisor feels the same). Tom, on the otherhand, is completely at ease. I think his son-of-a-preacher-man roots make him feel at home. 

  As I take photographs, I follow Tom’s lead around the village. At one point I find myself in a bookshop staring at a display of boxed replica saints. What are we doing here? I search for Tom and struggle to drag him out. He worked in a Christian bookshop in his youth; a moment longer and he’d have been quoting the ISBN numbers of all the different Bibles and regaling me with how many leather-bound King James versions he was able to sell on a Saturday. 

  

I hurry him back to the car, but not before he’s purchased a Stay Calm and Drink More Tea, Vicar mug for his dad, and some Virgin Mary chocolates for the kids….

It’s a relief to get back on the open road. We arrive in Diss to pick up the kids. Uncle Tim looks a shadow of his former self. All the enthusiasm he exhibited 24 hours has gone and he looks like he could do with a couple of matchsticks to keep his eyes open. 

In the kitchen Ella is making what I suspect could be her fifth coffee of the day. She leans on the kitchen counter while the kettle boils and lets it slip that Ollie was wandering the house at 4am keen to do some Lego. I worry we may have put them off having children for life. 

In the car on the way home, Daisy cheerfully informs us that Tim had to lie with Ollie for AN HOUR singing him to sleep. I’ll credit Tim with a good voice; I’ve never heard a better rendition of I Know Him So Well, but an hour of singing is enough to break anyone, especially as, if the source is to be believed, Ollie eyes sprung open the moment Tim left the room and it took several more attempts to get him finally to sleep…. (I can’t face verifying the truth of these claims).

So, as a tribute to uncle Tim and auntie Ella (there would’ve been no night away without them), and to end what has been a wonderful birthday week, covering three blog posts, it seems only fitting to give you the words of Elaine Paige:

Wasn’t it good (Oh so good) 

Wasn’t it fine (Oh so fine) 

Isn’t it madness he can’t be mine 

But in the end, he needs a little more than me 

More security (He needs his fantasy and freedom) 

I know him so well 

Ok, only the first two lines apply to me, but who can resist the whole chorus?

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=d_6BTJxCK24

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