When the snow finally melted in Cherry Hinton we left Cambridge and headed for Norfolk. First stop Sandringham, on the estate of the Queen’s country retreat no less.
En route we stopped at one of the many mobile roadside 'caffs' for a fried egg buttie. I have never seen so many trailers procuring fried food on one ‘A’ road. Usually you miss one and you’ve blown it till the next county. We are often peckish on the journey and we always seem to be on the road at lunchtime. Those caravanners who turn up at the site at one minute past the permissible noon arrival time are as sensible as they are predictable. But they are missing out on a great British tradition; eating in your car in a lay-by.
Note to self though, next time I’m offered broken eggs, just say “No”. It’s like eating a semi dried-out bath sponge. They break them while they’re frying! Eggs are meant to be runny, and dripping yolk is surely one of the attractions of an egg sarnie.
Anyway, lesson learnt. We usually have a nice little chat with these spatula-wielding heroes of the road. They like the look of the Airstream and often identify with our enjoyment of the nomadic life. This one was no exception. Our chef was a young woman who had quit the rat race for a simpler life, being her own boss and providing food for the peckish traveller.
The site at Sandringham had just opened its gates that morning, after the winter break. There were a couple of other vans when we arrived, but since it can accommodate over two hundred we could choose our ideal pitch. The warden guided us to a little copse and we set ourselves up between the trees as snow began to fall.
Within minutes snowflakes the size of fifty pence coins were floating down and gently covering the ground and clinging to the trees. Ever looked straight up at the sky while snow is falling? It's a kind of slow motion tumbling effect and seems to come from infinity.
Once inside, all set up and watching the darkening sky cast a bluish light over the snow it became obvious that what was needed was some freshly baked madeleines and a pot of tea. You know how it is? The wintry weather had recently brought out the baker in Pete, which was then passed on to me. I hadn't baked since compulsory cookery classes at school. Now I've made chocolate chip cup cakes and madeleines in the space of a week. I think we should put these newfound compulsions on hold until our friend Helen visits again though. These confections are so heavenly while still warm. You try having just one, or two. We need help with the eating. Well we don't but we ought to.
That night was one of those disturbed sleeps peculiar to trailers and vans. It had nothing to do with eating too much cake, actually. It sounded like it was raining with added intermittent sounds of objects thudding on the roof. Reluctant to wake fully and make sense of it all I felt very disoriented. I expected to find dents in the trailer roof the next day. Obviously it was lumps of snow losing their grip and plopping on top of us from the branches above. It is so obvious when you are awake.
A couple of days later Pete entered a postcode into the sat nav and took me on a mystery journey. We arrived at Thetford Forest park and I started to guess what he had planned. For some time now he has been suggesting that I could put aside my fear of heights and thoroughly enjoy a session at Go Ape. He was absolutely right!
Go Ape is a series of obstacles constructed from wood and rope and arranged around trees about thirty feet above ground. You are instructed in the safe use of your harness so that from the moment you leave the ground until you complete the course you are always attached safely. You start on a low level platform, practise using a zip slide and before you know it you are shimmying across wires, ropes and wobbly swinging contraptions, or hurtling through the trees till you bash into a giant rope net.
Not only did I enjoy myself too much to be scared, but I was picked by our instructor to go first. A couple of hours of challenging fun felt more like thirty minutes and the whole thing finished with the longest zip slide ever, Weeeee!!!
Blooming marvellous. Naturally, we ached everywhere for the next two days.