Starting on Monday, I decided that had to be a routine day, with my regular supermarket shopping trip, and some anticipation of my ‘Pre-Birthday’ on Tuesday.
Tuesday was Pre-Birthday day, and the trip to Pensthorpe Bird Park was planned, followed by an ‘easy-cook’ special meal that evening. Determined to pretend Spring had arrived, I put my shorts on for the first time since late October, and after walking Ollie, we set off for Fakenham. (Where Pensthorpe is.) Thirty minutes later, we arrived, only to discover that Pensthorpe is closed every Monday and Tuesday. Schoolboy error on my part, for not checking the opening times before I left. We are going to go on Friday instead.
Instead, we headed off to Bawdswell, where there is a nice garden centre that serves tea and cake. In the (rather windy) outside area there, I had coffee and carrot cake. On the way out, Julie spotted a straw hat in the shop, and she bought it for me as an extra birthday gift.
That evening, Julie was cooking. The ‘easy’ birthday meal turned out to be anything but, with five rather complicated stages of cooking and preparation required, each one set out on a leaflet included in the box. Despite the complicated procedures, the result was first-class, and the delicious flavours rewarded the time required. Once again, the error was mine, for not reading the outside of the box in the shop before I bought it. On this occasion, that turned out to be a good mistake.
Wednesday was the big day, and well-reported on here yesterday. My birthday meal had been booked in advance by Julie, to the White Horse at Brancaster Staithe, a specialist fish restaurant on the north coast of Norfolk, some 22 miles from Beetley. We had been there with friends some years ago, on a lovely summer evening, and often spoke about going back. It is an expensive restaurant in a nice setting, very suitable for a big celebration or milestone occasion. Not being summer, we were of course booked to eat inside, in the classy restaurant area.
It was raining here by 3pm. We didn’t have to leave home until 5:45, for a 6:30 booking, but by that time, the rain was torrential. Not only that, but incredibly low cloud had settled, making everywhere gloomy and misty. Julie decided to use her Satnav, in the hope it would provide a short cut around the busy coast road. Before we had even got to Fakenham, which is halfway, driving conditions were appalling. As my licence still hasn’t been renewed, Julie had to drive, and we had taken her car. It was soon like driving in a shallow river, and the oncoming main-beam headlights of selfish drivers made it even more difficult.
At Fakenham, the Satnav did indeed offer a short cut, which we took. But that turned out to be across country on tiny roads that in some cases were only wide enough for one car. And the rain was getting heavier, making it hard to see anything on the unfamilar roads. Close to the coast, the Satnav told us to make a turn. But a sign said the road it suggested was closed ahead. By then, we should have been sitting down to eat, and we had no idea where we were in relation to our destination.
The only option was to drive to somewhere we knew, and I chose Wells-Next-The-Sea, even though I was aware it was in the wrong direction. Once there, we safely stopped the car so Julie could ring the restaurant to tell them we would be late. But there was only a message, suggesting we contact them by email, or ring back at nine the next morning. The weather was getting worse, and the Satnav no longer picking up a signal at all. I chose the last resort of taking the coast road I knew, and we arrived at the restaurant fifteen minutes later, almost an hour late for our reservation.
We had both remarked that neither of us could ever recall driving in such terrible conditions.
Fortunately, the staff were pleased to see us, and had held the table. We ordered drinks, and perused the menu. Then we found out the menu had changed dramatically since our last visit. Options were greatly reduced, prices greatly increased. But we both found something we liked eventually, and sat back to enjoy the evening. I was presented with a large postcard of the restaurant, a birthday greeting written on the back. At the end of the meal, I was also served a large plate containing tasty sweet treats, with ‘Happy 70th Birthday’ written in liquid chocolate on the plate. And even though we had been disapointed with the menu options, the food had been delicious when it arrived.
Coming home via the coast road was much easier, but no less fractious in the continuing pouring rain and flooded roads. We were pleased to get home, and Ollie was pleased to see us too.
Today is going to be a ‘quiet day’, you can bet on that.