Thoughts On The Month Of March

Today is the 1st of March. It is my birthday on the 16th, so this month always has meaning for me. We are also collecting a car today, so fingers crossed that it all goes well. I had to insure it yesterday, and the telephone renewal went very smoothly indeed.

I take heart from that. These days, I take heart from anything remotely positive.

On my birthday, Julie has to work. So not much chance of a day out, especially with the possibility of snow that is predicted now. (Though that might not happen.) But in the evening we are going to a local Turkish restaurant to celebrate, and I am very much looking forward to the food there.

71 is not a ‘celebratory’ year, as it does not end in a 0. But I am celebrating living this long, something I never expected to happen after a life in very stressful jobs, a bad diet, and heavy smoking until I was 60.

March this year is also when the clocks go forward, near the end of the month. When that happens, it starts to really feel like Spring is here, and Summer is around the corner. I begin to anticipate those longer evenings. Daylight until 9pm, and hopefully much warmer temperatures too.

For many years, I have seen my birthday as the start of the year, rather than January the first. It is when I become another year older, and potentially another year wiser. It is also another year closer to the end of my life of course. But that holds no fear for me, as everything must end eventually.

Welcome, March. ‘In like a lion, out like a lamb’, so legend has it.

Holiday Snaps (2)

The anniversary meal.

On the night of our wedding anniversary, we had booked a table at the Ice Bar, a restaurant across the street from the hotel where we were staying in a cabin in the gardens.

For our starter we both ordered the same thing, garlic mushrooms. They arrived nicely presented in a large ‘Martini’ bowl, so we thought an anniversary photo was appropriate.

It was interesting for me to see how much I had aged since the wedding day 13 years earlier. My eye-bags are now so large, I could use them as extra luggage! 🙂

(The mushrooms were delicious!)

Sunday Musings On A Birthday Week

Anyone who has read my blog this week will already be aware that I was 70 years old on Wednesday. My week started on Monday, so this is the last day of celebrations. Given how much I have celebrated already, I think a quiet day will be the decent thing to do.


It has been a great week indeed. Two meals out, a trip to a nature reserve, and lots of nice gifts and cards received. After Wednesday, the weather improved too, and it has been lovely and sunny since. Then last night, it was rounded off in style. Julie took me to a restaurant in North Tuddenham, having arranged for my four step-children and two of their partners to come too. So we had a table for eight, a very nice family celebration, and I had a ’70’ balloon! I received more gifts and cards on the night, along with the news that all of Julie’s children have given some money so that we can go out again soon, and enjoy another meal on them. There was also a box of twelve 70th-birthday themed cupcakes, home-made.
This has been my best birthday week ever!


Of course, the world news is far from encouraging, and the situation in Ukraine continues to deteriorate. I confess that the last thing I expected to be happening in my 70th year was a new war in Europe. And just when I am at my lowest income since I left school, the price of everything has sky-rocketed. Oh well, no point complaining about that. The rich have always got richer, and the rest of us poorer. Just read any history book.


Ollie’s moult has to be seen to be believed, with his fur all over the house necessitating daily vacuuming more seriously than usual. We are trying to get him booked in to the dog-groomer next week, as a good wash and brush up will take care of at least some of the shedding fur.


Regular readers will also be aware that I still don’t have my renewed driving licence. (Sorry regulars, here I go again.) Next week marks the beginning of my first full week of not being able to drive legally until my licence is sorted out. I am trying not to be too annoyed about that, but it’s not easy.


I hope you all have a lovely Sunday. And if you can, go for a drive somewhere nice. You will appreciate the freedom of being able to do that, believe me.


Boxing Day Sunday Musings

I hope everyone had an enjoyable 25th. It was a relaxed day here in Beetley, with present opening for me, followed by a very quiet (and cold) dog walk with Ollie. Hardly anyone was out and about at lunchtime, and we only saw one other dog being walked. It has still been raining, so the mud was bad.


Remember when Christmas morning we would see excited children out on the street? Riding new bikes or scooters, falling over as they tried out new skates, or walking in family groups in their best new clothes on their way to visit family or friends.
Well that never seems to happen anymore, certainly not in Beetley.


Ollie loved getting his wrapped presents. He was so excited, running in circles, jumping up and smelling the parcels. It was easy to forget he is almost 10 now, as he was like a small puppy again. He got a plush grey squirrel, a cow that squeaks and crackles, a ‘Nemo’ type stuffed fish, a hedgehog in a spiky ball, a squeaky hot dog in a bun, and a rubber squeaky Christmas Tree. Later on he was so worn out, he slept soundly all evening.


I did well too. A lovely heavy plush dressing gown and real sheepskin ankle-boot slippers. (Both being worn as I type this.) Three different bottles of red wine. (I had the Malbec last night.) Two boxes of chocolate-covered Brazil Nuts and two packets of pistachios. A pair of very nice stemless wine goblets, and a paperback book.


We went out to the restaurant for our Christmas meal at 2:30 pm. It was great food, and served piping hot. There were three courses, and Julie couldn’t finish her cheese board selection at the end, asking for it to be boxed up to bring home. We were the last to leave, and got home just before 4:30.


Today is called Boxing Day in England. This explains why.

The name comes from a time when the rich used to box up gifts to give to the poor. Boxing Day was traditionally a day off for servants – a day when they received a special Christmas box from their masters.The servants would also go home on Boxing Day to give Christmas boxes to their families.

I will be cooking a traditional roast Sunday dinner later, and we have a lot to do to prepare for a long day tomorrow with guests coming from around 2pm.


Life returns to normal on the 28th.


Eating Out After Lockdown

I don’t lead a very exciting life. I rarely venture further than the supermarket in Dereham, and my trips to the city of Norwich can be counted on my fingers after eight years of living in Norfolk. That’s fine with me, and a choice, not a complaint. But one thing I do like to do at least once a month is to eat out in a restaurant.

Until last night, the last time I had been able to do that was on my birthday in March. Now some of the restaurants around here are opening up again. At least those that can arrange their seating to allow for social distancing, and presumably expect to still be able to make a profit with the reduction in customers. A few have remained open throughout, but only for collection and delivery of takeaway food.

Spice Fusion is the best of a few Indian restaurants within an easy drive of Beetley. During lockdown it has remained as busy and popular as ever, by offering a takeaway and delivery service. Last week it opened its doors to diners for the first time in four months. Due to reduced opening hours, we went fairly early, making sure to ring and book a table the day before. Inside, social distancing and safety measures were impressive. Clear plastic screens had been installed between all the tables, most of which were now next the walls and along the large window. Staff were all wearing masks, and using hand sanitizer between serving different diners. The menu cards were plasic, and had all been sanitized before being handed to customers. There was a one-way system for entry and exit too.

The manager and waiters were all pleased to see us, and very welcoming. No doubt they had been concerned whether or not the regulars would return to sit-down dining after such a long break. With the food as fresh and tasty as we remembered, and a convivial atmosphere with four other tables also occupied, it was a most enjoyable evening.

We were home before 8:30 pm though. No point in overdoing it! 🙂

When it all comes together

Yesterday was a public holiday in the UK. Traditionally a time for trips to the beach, outdoor eating, or catching up with garden jobs before autumn arrives. Resorts are generally overcrowded, parking a real issue, and any pleasure gained from going out is often diminished by the frustration of traffic jams. Over the last few years, Julie and I have just given up on venturing anywhere on days like these, content to have a relaxing day at home.

But yesterday was different. Roland, one of my oldest and most cherished friends, was visiting Norfolk, from his home in London. He was accompanied by his girlfriend, Christine, and the chance to find them so close to Beetley was too good to miss. He had sensibly let me know a few days before, and I had booked a table in a coastal restaurant for an evening meal, to guarantee we would not be disappointed. Once arrangements were made, the doubts and concerns began to surface. We had never been to this restaurant. It looked good on the Internet, but what if it turned out to be awful? The coast road on holidays is notoriously congested. Perhaps traffic delays would mean we would arrive late? Then there was the weather to consider. It is all very well eating inside, but heavy rain or a gloomy day can contrive to ruin the atmosphere. When you haven’t had the chance to catch up for two years, you naturally want it to be in the best circumstances.

I took Ollie out a little earlier, and gave him his dinner early too. We were both ready to leave here at 4 pm, allowing a good hour to drive the twenty-odd miles. They were coming from further east, but had a similar journey. The afternoon weather was glorious. Blue skies, fluffy clouds, and temperatures that were just right too. The back route that I had planned, taking small country lanes across to our destination, worked out perfectly. We saw hardly any traffic, and enjoyed a pleasant drive through attractive villages on the way. We got there at least twenty minutes early, parked easily in the car park, and found a table on the terrace overlooking the coastal marshes. Small boats were sailing all around, and lots of people were enjoying the chance to relax with a drink in the sun.

Then our friends arrived, having also had a stress-free journey, and looking happy and well. We reunited over a drink on the terrace, before retiring inside to go to our arranged table. The staff were attentive, the menu offered good choices, and when the food arrived, it was delicious. Our table was near a window offering panoramic views across to the coast, and the whole experience was simply marvellous. When it came time to leave, we all wanted to stay longer, so we did. Watching the sunset over the marshes was a delight, and following a short walk on the nearby path, we went back into the bar for a farewell drink. During that time, we received the great news that they are getting married next year, and we could not have been happier for them. That was the icing on the cake of a great day out.

Even the trip home was completely trouble-free, and Ollie was obviously very pleased to see us.

Don’t you just love it, when it all comes together like that?

(I will add this link to the place where we went for dinner. If you are ever in North Norfolk, it is highly recommended.)

When The Fates conspire…

I wrote yesterday about being covered in rashes and bites. On top of that, the hay fever season is especially bad this year, and I am streaming from the eyes and nose. Add to this a heavy summer cold and cough, and the recent spell of nice weather has become increasingly difficult to enjoy.

So, to cheer us up, and for a change on a Saturday evening, we decided to go to the nearby Thai restaurant, where we always enjoy good food, and a pleasant night out. We had to book an early reservation, as they were unusually busy. It is within walking distance, and this is one of the added attractions, not having to drive there. However, the uncomfortable humid weather brought heavy skies, and the promise of rain. By the time we had to leave, at 6.15 pm, Julie decided not to risk any thunderstorms, and said she would drive us there in her car. Light rain on the way confirmed her fears, and by the time we arrived, it was raining a lot heavier.

The food was excellent, the staff as friendly as ever, and we were glad to have made the effort to get out of the house, and enjoy the change. By 8.40 pm, we were back at home relaxing, and watching a film on TV. At around 10.30, we were startled by the doorbell ringing. Beetley is a very quiet place, dark and sleepy by this time. Someone calling at that hour is not only unusual, it is almost unheard of. I went out, and saw two people with torches on the driveway. As I got closer, I realised that they were police officers. One of them shone his torch across the road outside. “Could that be your car?” He asked. I was shocked to see Julie’s car up against the wall of the house opposite. I replied, “Hang on, I will go and get my wife.”

We went over to the house of the neighbour across the road. Our car had rolled off the driveway, sedately crossed the street, then continued across his front lawn, before falling into the gap by his side entrance. The back of the car was hard against his brickwork, and the rear wheels suspended in space, jammed by some half-logs that surround his grass. It was too dark to do anything about it, and the police made some cursory checks before leaving, happy to conclude that it was no more than a simple vehicular mishap. Our neighbour wasn’t even at home. He had checked his security cameras remotely, seen a car against his back gate, and presumed that a burglary was in progress. He had called the police from where he was, almost 100 miles away, and they had responded expecting to find suspects at the scene.

This morning, we can see it all in better light. The wheels are stuck fast, his newly-landscaped lawn and log border have been slightly disturbed, and there is some damage to the rear of Julie’s car, as well as to the underside. The insurance company are recovering the vehicle to be repaired locally. They will supply a replacement car for one week too. When our neighbour arrives back today, we will give him the details, so that he can claim for repairs to his property. No harm done, nobody injured, more inconvenience and embarrassment than drama. Things that can be fixed, and only a small amount to pay.

If only we had stayed at home…

A Birthday update.

Well it’s nearly time to say goodbye to another birthday. Despite not being able to go to the seaside, it worked out OK. I got 11 cards, and messages to say that I would be receiving more tomorrow. There were nice presents too; some bottles of wine, two DVD films, a CD, and even some cash. There is the hope of more to come, extending the whole birthday experience into the weekend.

Despite a murky start, the weather brightened and warmed up. The afternoon walk with Ollie was very good, and he got to see all his regular friends, in a big group. The problem with the central heating should be sorted tomorrow, for not much outlay. Even if it isn’t cured then, the wood-burner is going strong, and the hot water is in abundance from the electric heater. I got lots of text messages, phone messages, and e-mails too. Then there were all the nice comments on my previous post as well.

When Julie got home, I opened more cards and my gifts from her, and we went to a local hotel restaurant. I had a starter of pigeon and black pudding that was very tasty. This was followed by a main course of pheasant, something I don’t enjoy that often. Nice locally-sourced produce, and fresh too. It was delicious, and very delicate in flavour; accompanied by rostis, and curly kale. A nice house Shiraz completed my dining experience, and friendly staff were the icing on the cake.

Back home to a glowing fire, and a relaxing latter part of the evening. All in all, a pretty good birthday, at least in my book.

A Beetley weekend

Yesterday, we had arranged to meet Julie’s children, and their partners, for a celebratory meal in Norwich. The occasion was her oldest son’s 30th birthday. He and his girlfriend drove up from Hertfordshire with his brother, and went to visit one of his twin sisters, to see the new baby. The other twin came over from her home in Norfolk with her boyfriend, and they all spent time enjoying their new nephew. The restaurant in Norwich had been booked for 8pm, and we all arranged to meet in there.

As Julie and I set off, my car failed to start. The sudden drop in temperature to -3, had killed off the already tired battery, which failed to raise enough enthusiasm to start the vehicle. We had to quickly swap to Julie’s car, and we still made good time, arriving exactly on schedule. Once inside, all hungry, seeking the warmth and conviviality in evidence, we were told that there was no record of our booking. As there were eight of us, they could not find us any table to suit, and suggested that we had mistakenly booked a similar restaurant, another branch of the small chain. They rang them, but they had no record either. As the telephone call had only been made and booking confirmed less than two hours earlier, it was plain to us that they had made a mistake, and were refusing to admit it. However, there was little point in making a fuss. There was nowhere to sit, and we were out on a Saturday night before Christmas, with little chance of finding a suitable restaurant able to accept such a large group. Julie’s son went over the road to a different restaurant. He returned with the good news that they could take us, but that they had a large party in, so it would be noisy, and service might be slower than usual. We took the chance, and managed to have a very nice time, with some reasonable food thrown in.

Arriving back quite late, Julie and I stayed up longer than usual too, with a resulting late start today. I tried the car again. It teased me with the prospect of turning over, then died with a cackle. At 1pm, I rang the RAC. I have been a member for as long as I can recall, and pay for the full package, including help at home. I could have just taken Julie’s car, driven down to Halfords, and bought a battery to fit myself. Then there would be little point in paying into a breakdown service in the first place. The RAC control centre staff were very helpful, but advised me that because of the sudden cold weather, they were busier than usual. They said it would take around three hours to get one of their mechanics to me. I said that would be OK, and headed off with Ollie, for an earlier than normal walk, hoping to ensure that I would be around when the RAC arrived. Despite the sunny morning, as soon as we arrived at The Meadows, it began to rain. Freezing cold drops, falling at a fair rate, soon had me feeling damp, chilly, and fed up. As we were early, there were none of Ollie’s regular companions around, so I cut the walk short after seventy-five minutes, and returned home.

True to their word, the RAC rang me back. There were two calls. The first from a busy mobile mechanic, telling how he was snowed under with work, and wouldn’t be here until after 6. Not long after, the control room rang, to tell us that they would have someone there in thirty minutes, as they had brought people in from outside the area, to cope with the demand. That was good news, as there would still be some daylight. A cheerful man arrived on time. He chatted easily, and told me that he lived about an hour from here, near Thetford. Like us, he was not from Norfolk, but had moved up here from Essex, a few years ago. A quick test of battery output confirmed what I had expected. Instead of the required 300 amps, my weary device could only manage 140; this with the engine running, after being started with his special machine. A new battery was the only long-term solution, and he could fit one, then and there.

I went for the heavy-duty option. As the car isn’t used very often, it pays to get the best available. I also benefited from a five-year guarantee from the RAC, instead of the standard one-year, if I had bought one and fitted it myself. I rewarded the man with a cup of strong tea, and happily paid my £120. That may seem expensive, but it was in our own driveway, and I didn’t even have to open the bonnet myself. Plus there is that five-year peace of mind to consider. By then, it was almost dark, and I withdrew into the kitchen to finish the preparation for our evening meal of roast chicken, with all the trimmings. It will be ready soon. The heating is on, Ollie is dozing, and Homeland is on TV later. Despite a couple of setbacks, that’s not a bad ending to a reasonably good weekend.