I used to be religious. I even at one time seriously consider joining the priesthood, even going so far as going on a discernment retreat. I think I realised that my belief wasn’t as secure as I thought it was, and decided against it.
My attitude was that my religious thoughts were between myself and God, and it wasn’t something that I was going to force on anyone else. I did do one thing overly religious and that was something called Student Cross.
I’ll leave the story about how I ended up getting involved for another post. So as a quick explanation Student Cross is an organisation that organises walking pilgrimages around East Anglia during Holy Week to a place called Walsingham in Norfolk. Groups start in various places and converge on Walsingham on Good Friday, with the organisers generally coming from the pilgrims who walked the previous year.
That’s a bit of a long intro. If only the story was worth it.
Anyway, after my friend, let’s call him Mark, had somehow got himself elected leader of Essex Leg without ever having walking it previously. Mark being Mark, he wanted to do at least three recces of the route. Normally, this would be excessive, but as he had never walked the route it made sense that he would get a few looks at it.
I got the dubious honour of chaperoning him on the first of these three great adventures. Now, I am an old hand on Essex Leg, so I would probably be able to drive most of the route without the need of a map. We agreed to do it on the jubilee weekend. Mark would sort out accommodation, and I would sort out transport.
The plan was that Mark would come down to mine on the Saturday. Then first thing Sunday morning we would drive to Colchester and drive the route to Wymondham (Wednesday night). Stay in Wymondham overnight, and drive the remainder of the route on the Monday morning. We were going to have this jolly jaunt on the double jubilee bank holiday weekend. It was also a half term break at school so it gave me the opportunity to spend a couple of extra days up north.
The plan started off well. I collected the car on the Saturday morning, while there were no problems with the trains down to London. There was a mix up concerning sweet shops; you do have to get your priorities right after all. It went well until one of the Essex leggers that we met up with got rather drunk and we were thrown out of the pub that we went to. We didn’t know that she had a bottle of wine before we met up with her. Honest!
As the first day driving was going to be a long one, so we had a 5am wake up call. Mark and I headed off to sunny Colchester to begin our great adventure.
Some of the route had changed since I had last walked Essex Leg three years previously, and by the end of the day we found that my memory wasn’t quite what it used to be. So, there were a few times when we were map dependant. We didn’t get too lost except around Hapton. It took us two attempts to get in and three to get out.
But I’m getting a wee bit ahead of myself. I decided that we would get a late lunch at Woodbridge, on our way to what I refer to the Bawdsey peninsula. Of course, we got there after two in the afternoon and in the best Suffolk tradition all of the pubs had stopped doing food. With it also being a Sunday, everything else was closed. Fortunately, there was a jubilee fete going on, so we popped in and had a look.
As we were listening to the brass band and avoiding the women’s institute press gangs, Mark got a phone call from the hotel in Wymondham. They wanted to know what time we were expecting to get in at. If everything went to plan, we wouldn’t get there until about six. So they told us that they would leave the back door unlocked and put our key in the room. We were given our room number and the key combination to get into it, as there wouldn’t be anyone around to check us in.
We ended up getting to Wymondham for about seven, and drove into the empty car park. We found the back door, which was unlocked and got into our room. As we walked through the ground floor of the hotel, we noticed that the bar was closed, all the lights were off and it looked like no one was at home.
After about an hour of sorting ourselves out, we thought about getting something to eat. Normally, this would have involved getting something at the hotel, but I didn’t think that was going to happen. So, we decided to go out and enjoy Wymondham on a Sunday night.
Well, cutting a long story short, Wymondham could never be confused with Las Vegas, or even Brum Vegas. We did find a pub that was open, but they of course had stopped serving food about ten minutes before we got there. We found the delightfully named Mister Kebab, and got ourselves burgers and chips.
Rather than doing the sad thing of eating them in our room, we eat in the bar area of the hotel. By this time it was starting to get quite dark, and there was an eerie feeling to the place. There were still no lights on, and it was starting to get quite atmospheric, and not in a good way. There are certain places which feel wrong when there are no people there, and this one of them.
The next morning we went for breakfast, and there was one table set. You could almost say that it appeared like magic. When we sat down, our waitress appeared and we finally meet our first person in the hotel. I say waitress, we suspect that she was also the cook and she also checked us out.
In my dream world, she should have had a Transylvanian accent but she didn’t. It was eastern European, but not that eastern.
You would have thought that on the jubilee weekend there would have been more people travelling around. It just goes to show that I only go to the really popular places.