One of the hardest parts of being a grown up is that there are very few breaks in the continuity of everyday life. The trite cliche of the treadmill of life is much maligned, but the reason it is so overused simply reflects the accuracy of the analogy. There is so little break from the routine. One can accurately break life down to a 12-14 hour timeline, accurately predicting hour upon hour where one will be and what activity will be being undertaken. Unpredictability seemed to fade along with my hairline.
I’m not a teacher, so there isn’t the luxury of knowing when your next holiday is marked out annually on a calendar. Actually, its been months since we had any length of break, Pete and I doing a few days at work each between Christmas and New Years. Its been years since I had as long as fortnight off, stealing a week here and a week there. It all becomes a bit counterproductive after a while, and some well needed perspective has to be sought. A week off was definitely required, my cynicism and loathing for members of the human race threatening to reach self destructive levels. If I’m honest, it hasn’t been all soul searching and aura cleansing, I had annual leave that wanted using. So inspiration was sought.
I remember scrolling through Instagram and lovingly gazing at the photos of beaches, beach huts and lovely pubs taken by a fancy woman I follow. I first followed her as I coveted her interior design choices, but in time I began to find her life infuriatingly luxurious and now I look on with increasing jealousy when she posts on some idle Thursday that she has been non-stop ironing her pillow slips all afternoon, so has lit a Jo Malone candle whilst her chateaubriand cooks in the bottom oven of the Aga. I scrolled back and saw that she had been on holiday in the Burnham’s in North Norfolk, an area I was aware of due to a colleague of mine having friends with a holiday home in the area.
Pete and I spoke about where we should go. Pete suggested Center Parcs, but they had “allocated the proportion of dog-friendly accommodation” for the weeks we enquired about. I have no idea what nonsense that is, and to be honest if they don’t want us there, they don’t want us. We decided to just go for it and look for somewhere in Burnham Market. I hate making the decisions. This appears to be one of the roles we end up taking in relationships- one sorts out the arrangements, the other is a bit better at practical matters. Now this won’t be universal, but at times where I’ve unburdened my annoyance with a good bitch and moan with friends and colleagues its often been the case that we all suffer similar frustrations. So you have to sometimes accept your fate, and in fact find the positives in it all. Pete just wants a few options placed before him and to make a choice, he doesn’t enjoy the trawling through websites reviewing the options. So I logged onto Airbnb. Airbnb can be a minefield I find. You find places, request them, and are knocked back due to them being “unavailable”, despite them being advertised as available, which makes you doubt the whole system. I was rejected for only having two reviews and not being a host, which is odd. Surely being a host is a luxury and not commonplace? I mean, it would be nice to earn a few bob from renting a room out, but I don’t want the invasion and disruption. Nor do I want to start having that awful prospect of people reviewing my home online. I always imagine those people who write reviews about poor hygiene are hoarders and live in squalor but somehow apply a higher standard to OTHER peoples homes.
I was luckier this time around actually. We got one of our favourite options- a cute dog-friendly bungalow a short walk from the centre of the village. The village is a short drive from the coast, and each coastal village or town seems to have its own character. Some appear modern and adaptable, some appear to thrive on their history, some have a more seaside vibe, some could be in the middle of the Peak District such is its village feel rather than coastal town. What is commonplace is that once reached, the beaches never end. They go on for miles and miles. Honestly, miles. You don’t reach the end, rather you check your watch or FitBit, ask yourself how long you’ve got or how long before the Westie starts refusing to walk further, and you adapt accordingly. We were averaging 8 miles or so a walk, along the flat, sandy, beautifully clean beaches. We met a lady in an interior design shop (commonplace in these parts- artisanal produce shops, farm fresh veg and organic woven jute rugs a plenty, never a Sainsbury’s Local though for milk and crisps) who tells us that even in the height of summer, you can find stretches of beach where you may be joined by one or two dispersed people but thats about it. As a Midlander by birth, South Yorkshire based in adulthood, the sea has a real calming, transportive effect upon me. Perhaps its because its novel, occasional, somewhere I escape to rather than have the choice to visit day in day out. I always feel a bit more balanced looking out to sea, its vast breadth making me feel smaller, and consequently those insecurities I carry with me, those things I worry about that feel bigger than I can cope with at times fading into an obscurity just by comparing it to everyone and everything that exists beyond this stretch of water, or who may stand and gaze upon it today, tomorrow, the next day.
Norfolk is flat, so the skies were massive as we walked its coastal paths. I hope I don’t sound too introspective as I write all this, but I think we sometimes need to change just our physical landscape for some perspective. Now I’m not a country boy at all. I am urban, like a fox. I enjoy the trappings of city life- a Starbucks on the way to work, heading to a HIIT boot camp in the morning when I don’t have to walk the dog, fetching a rye sourdough loaf and almond croissants after Park Run to eat with the paper and a coffee from the Nespresso machine. I buy into it all. It also comes at a cost- its too easy to work long days- at the desk just after 8am, leave gone 6:30pm, work remotely at home at night- always on never off. Meeting work acquaintances in the gym, reminding me of outstanding tasks that I type into the notes on my phone, before I head home, quick dinner, sending further work texts in bed after e mailing at the dining table after dinner. Sleep then beckons, before getting up at 5:30am, heading out for a 3 miles walk with the dog. Breakfast is quickly eaten, before I’m out the door with shoes not fastened, hair never styled these days, into the car laden with two bags- one gym one work, ready to start again. You can see why it gets draining. Friday night used to be straight out the office door and on to the bar- one or two glasses turning into dinner (wherever we had a voucher code) staying out until being out in our work outfits depressed or frustrated us. Once or twice or ten times my friends and I had been known to run to some shop or other (depending on how close or far we were to payday dictated the store in question) to buy an outfit. I am in awe of this level of energy. I can honestly say I can’t even contemplate staying up till 10:35pm to watch Graham Norton nowadays. The iPlayer doesn’t even require me to make this effort. By 10pm, I have usually fed Pete, started a film he has chosen, paused it by about 8:45pm as he has fallen asleep, and watched something and nothing until I can no longer keep my eyes open. This is the impact of my week upon me, again predictable. Again, a routine you can set your watch to.
But not this week. This week, gay abandon has been exercised. Up and out at 9am, or up and out by 10:30- who cares? Wine with lunch- I’m on holiday. Wine in the afternoon in the glorious sunshine. Back to back episodes of the Real Housewives of New York after a long morning walking. I’ve had chips 4 times in 5 days, and couldn’t care less what anyone says. I went to bed at 8:30pm the other day as I was tired and had been for a few drinks. It has been bliss. I don’t see these as the sort of excuses people make, like drinking champagne at 8am as “its Christmas morning”, or that thing I find unseemly where people are drinking in a Wetherspoons in an airport at 5:30am before a 4 hour flight. It’s more the type of choices you can make if work were out of the equation. Maybe you wouldn’t make them though if you didn’t work. Perhaps this is why the fancy lady on Instagram schedules an afternoon of ironing bedding- rather this than binge drinking. And without your other half, time is harder to fill, or at times only half the fun, if I’m home and Pete isn’t I really look forward to his return. I have never been more disappointed than on those days when I have been at home and looking forward to Pete’s coming through the door only to find out he’s had a bad day, or is grumpy and tired. It’s always like a guttural punch, but you can’t say anything, as I always tell myself I’ve built up his return to beyond anything it ever was going to be.
Anyway, I digress. We have had such a great time this week. Its been fun as normally its never Pete, the dog and I and a day with nothing planned. On any given Saturday, we have to do exercise, do the things that want doing whilst all the shops and services are open, and then walk the dog before dinner. Then Sunday is a similar beast, also factoring in the time it takes to prepare for the working week to start again. A week in quiet Norfolk was very different, and has been a pleasure. Its been about what we would like or love to do, rather than pandering to necessity. Walking as long as we can on isolated beaches, lunches in dog friendly cafes and pubs, drinking wine in spring sunshine outside of the local pub eavesdropping on posh people talking about posh things, browsing around shops coveting things we can’t afford and eye rolling at the usual tat that lines shelves in the types of places that tourists frequent. All the seaside favourites.
Ok, so food wise we have been indulgent. Crunchy Nut Cornflakes and 🥐, the above seen ham 🍳 and chips, fish and chips, burger and chips (twice), and fajitas all eaten over the course of 5 days. This wasn’t a week of fine dining and cutting edge cuisine, nor did I seek for it to be. It wasn’t that kind of holiday, and I don’t think I’m that kinda guy either.
I packed up essentials for the week. Of course that needed a portable and not perishable cake. I didn’t want to be baking whilst away, not knowing what our kitchen’s limits would be and not really wanting to have to spend any time in the house if there were things going on elsewhere I wanted to do. In these situations you have to forget about certain things- no perishable buttercream, nothing massive thats hard to transport, nothing meringue-like that will crumble or spoil, nothing with double cream, nothing that is a slave to a fridge.
What do you take? Guess what, I’m not telling you today. I have perfected a recipe, and I’m going to share it with you. Just wait kids, wait.
Instead, have another photo . Have a photo of my little family, all smiley in the sun and doing the Selfie thing. It was a fabulous few days. Already missing it.
Work tomorrow. Urgh. I’ll take solace writing the recipe up to share with you this week. It won’t change your world, but will make it taste a bit better come tea time.