As another calendar year draws to a close, we also finally arrive at the last blog entry for the year. And what a year it has been. The fun, adventures and drama have been non-stop.
In the short time since getting back from Florida, we have crammed much in again. Football and golf happened and the less said about both the better. After another long visit to the Genius bar in the Apple Store my phone was eventually swapped for a new one, and as I suspected my problems just went away.
I have been out and about on my electric bike which still makes me smile every time I ride it. My wedding ring which broke on our last trip is now in for repair.
Our heating saga continues. Although we do have heating it is limited. We are now waiting for both valves on 11 radiators to be replaced and a water heating arrestor to be installed. Hopefully the system can then be balanced correctly.
There was also an amazing night out in the private dining room at Benedicts in Norwich courtesy of our Financial Advisors. A mere 8 course menu with a suitable wine pairing for each course. The food and service were both simply spectacular.
And so onto our last trip away of the year a weekend away with some lovely friends.
We left home for the short drive to the houseboat at Pin Mill in Suffolk at 3.30pm on Friday after completing our share of the shopping list of provisions needed for the weekend away. We had been receiving messages from the other couples who had left earlier informing us that the traffic on the A14 around Ipswich was a nightmare and to avoid it. I decided to put my trust in Waze to navigate us around the problem. This would have been a good plan if the data on my phone had been automatically refreshed as it should. Instead, though there was an error and so the route didn’t update as we went along and so hoping to find the hold ups had cleared as Waze did not divert us around them, we just joined the back of the gridlock. The journey eventually took double the length that it should.
It was dark when we pulled up at the end of the road at Pin Mill and awaited the two Ian’s who had been despatched from the boat to show us the way along the pathway in the dark. Ian L walked Karen back to the boat, whilst Ian K guided me back to the car park. The boat was a good 7-minute walk away which was challenging carrying our luggage and food bags for the weekend. The path was muddy, wet, rough, and quite interesting in the dark.
Once on the boat though, the journey and walk were immediately forgotten. The accommodation was amazing. It was large yet homely and with the log burner now well alight very welcoming. What was a large old steel barge like hub had been turned into a high spec modern accommodation with 5 large ensuite bedrooms downstairs, a huge Kitchen Diner, a lovely lounge and various other rooms like a boot room and a games room. It was a true design marvel from what was presumably rusty old hull.
In the random draw before arriving we were happy that we had been drawn the master bedroom which was very spacious at the end of the corridor of the lower deck.
For the weekend we were joined by Clover & Fudge. They were mother & daughter wiry Jack Russell’s. They were both adorable and kept everyone amused all the time with their antics. They were both very well trained and no trouble any of the time. They loved having belly rubs (as do I, but they got far more than me).
Once everyone had arrived the lounge was soon filled with lots of laughter as the first of many bottles of alcohol were opened and consumed. Graham & Jo had volunteered to cook the evening meals with many willing hands to help them. Tonight, was Vegetable Chilli which Karen hadn’t been sure about in advance but really enjoyed it. Being the faddy idiot that I am, I had some tuna with my jacket potato which had been cooked to perfection in the Aga.
Back in the Lounge, Sarah organised a fun game where we all had to be a mystery famous guest at a dinner party. I got down to the last two with Ian K, but for the life of me could not recall the name of the guest that he had chosen to be. In the second game I was out quickly when Karen deduced, I was being Valerie Singleton (you had to be there).
After more drinks, nibbles, and more drinks the evening drew to a close. We all retired to our rooms. Pleasingly despite being in a different bed we both slept well.
Sarah & Ian K were on breakfast duty and cooked everyone with Bacon & Egg rolls which were very welcome, and I found out were called ‘Egg Banjo’s (a name from the British Army relating to squaddies lifting the roll up whilst trying to clear the egg yolk that had squirted onto their shirts).
We all then decided to go for a walk around the local area. A 5-mile route was selected with the promise of a Pub stop halfway round. Karen & I decided that provided we took it easy we should be able to make it.
The scenery was beautiful as we followed the public footpath. Karen & I maintained a slow but steady pace at the back of the pack. Walking and talking to different people meant that the time and distance passed quickly. After we had been going for about 90 minutes, Matt who was leading us had to admit he had been mistaken in thinking there was a Pub on route and so we had to just plough on without a stop.
As we reached the banks of the Orwell again heading back to the boat the walkway became extremely boggy in parts. Karen & I slowed down to make sure she could get through without slipping. We almost lost the rest in the distance, but we weren’t bothered as we didn’t want to hold anyone up and I was confident I could find our way back.
Before we got to the boat, we walked through the National Trust Pin Mill Woodland area. This had a steep incline followed by a sharp decline. Karen is never good going down these at the best of times alone when they are slippery, and her glasses kept steaming up. We made it with me walking slowly directly in front and her leaning on me. We had the same difficulty getting her down the high steps down to the boat but got back without any damage.
The rest of the afternoon was then spent with everyone noisily and happily playing various card games that had been brought along.
At 5.30pm after getting changed everyone met again for champagne pre dinner drinks. Toasts were raised to the two couples who were both celebrating wedding anniversaries in the next few days. After this we set off for the short walk to the Butt & Oyster Pub for the table, we had already pre booked. The ladies all looked especially smart, and their look was completed by the wellies and walking boots they had to wear for the walk. I think Karen was the only one of them who didn’t take shoes or heels to change into as she figured no one would see what she had on under the table.
For a rural pub, the food was very good and very reasonably priced. Everyone had just a started and main course as there were plenty of desserts and cheese back on the boat. I had the salmon and soft cheese roulade followed by the Turkey dinner. I really enjoyed both.
Back on the boat more drink was consumed and there was lots of noisy chatter and laughter for the rest of the evening. The Lounge was large enough for us all to sit around comfortably together and for everyone to feel part of what was going on. We all played a game of Obama Llama we all agreed was very surreal but quite funny at the same time.
The forecast for the next day was not great and so we agreed a later time for the full English breakfast that Sarah & Ian K had volunteered to provide. Graham helped as there was an awful lot to cook. Again, they did us proud. It is no mean feat getting all that food ready at the same time.
Then we all walked back to the cars where we took 3 of them to Suffolk Farm Foods which was located back by the Orwell Bridge. It was now raining, and we had to run from the busy car park into the buildings. It was a typical farm shop. The quality of the products on sale was good but the prices were evident of how much closer we were to London. Karen & I found some things we liked but laughed at how much they wanted for them. Instead, we got a couple of hot drinks and found a table in the restaurant area where we were joined by Sarah & Ian K.
Back on the boat it was time for me to find a stream to watch the Norwich game. They were again hopeless but somehow scored a winner in the 95th minute which kind of masked the performance. Whilst I was being anti-social watching this the others all watched the previous days ‘Strictly’ show on iPlayer in the Lounge. They then started to play the board game ‘Logo’. I had never played this before and joined the boys’ team when the match was over and ‘helped’ to power them to victory. I enjoyed the game which had more to it than I had thought.
Whilst this was happening Graham & Jo were again working hard preparing tonight’s meal which was to be Sausage Casserole. Again, without fuss it was all ready on time and went down very well with everyone. Before that there had been just time for a game of ‘Taco, Goat’ card game which was a lot of fun but did involve several bruised hands.
After clearing away I set up the Horse Racing game which everyone seemed to enjoy. The Kings had a bit of a losing streak and were at one point offering up their car as collateral.
Then we all sat around the log burner for a lazy end to the day just before midnight.
Our final morning saw everyone up early and clearing things away before a communal breakfast. At the appointed time of 10am we took the last of things back to the car and said our goodbyes.
It had been a really good weekend that we had all seemed to thoroughly enjoy. As Susie said at the end the group dynamics were terrific and everyone got on so well together. We all agreed to do it again sometime in the summer. The weekend certainly got a big thumbs up from both of us.
I feel truly blessed to have such lovely friends in all parts of my life and of course such a lovely family all around me.
And that brings the final Blog of 2023 to a close. Thank you all for bearing with me and the compliments some of you have paid to the blog. I do it mainly for our benefit as a record, but it is nice to know that others enjoy. There will much more to come in 2024 with many new adventures to come.