Sunday, 21 May 2017

We're going where the sun shines rarely

I always rather enjoyed 'The Great British Bake Off', even in preference to Masterchef which has an unfortunate tendency to disappear up its own arse from time to time. 'Bake-off' at least has its feet rooted a bit more firmly on the ground, but there was always the odd ingredient that cropped up regularly, such as star anise and lavender, which I've never used and made me curious to investigate further.
Now I've always thought of lavender as one of those things which is for some reason very popular with old ladies, but certainly not on my list of things I enjoy the smell of.
Fresh baked bread, vanilla, burnt two-stroke oil, all fine - but not lavender.
The other day however, while we were visiting Felbrigg Hall in Norfolk, we stopped off in the cafe for a cup of tea. Amongst the usual assortment of baked goods which these places kindly offer to help you get fat, was a lemon and lavender cake, so I decided to indulge in a slice - purely in the interests of research of course.
Both the light delicate sponge and the butter cream topping were populated with tiny lavender flowers, giving a subtle flavour that was absolute bliss. I'm sure it would be very easy to overdo it with the lavender, but the balance was just right.
So that's it, I'm converted. There's loads of lavender in the front garden but it hasn't flowered yet, so when it does I shall start experimenting with it. I'll just have to careful to not end up smelling like an old lady's cardigan.

Stately homes and their expansive grounds are usually great places to have a good walk without the intrusion of traffic noise, while providing ample opportunities for a spot of photography.
We've just spent a few days in Norfolk having a short break from normality, spending time relaxing and visiting the odd National Trust property including Felbrigg Hall and Blickling Hall.
It's nice to go away occasionally, even if it's nothing grand, but the wife and I are still not convinced after all these years that we're the kind of people who really enjoy holidays.
We like the idea of it, but the reality is that by the third day we've had enough and are ready to come home.
The place we were staying this time was only 70 miles from home - the sort of thing you could do as a day trip if you were so inclined - so it was only through stubborn determination that we saw it through to the end, especially as the weather left a great deal to be desired.
It strikes me that the best thing about any sort of holiday is being reminded of just how comfortable your own bed is.
With the exception of one cottage in Hawes that we stayed in several years ago, which had just been done up to a very high standard, the one predictable thing about any holiday is a hard uncomfortable bed. At a bed & breakfast we once stayed in, I ended up sleeping on the floor because it was more comfortable than the bed.
Now I know people bang on about loving a good hard mattress and it being good for your back, but I think they're talking bollocks. When it comes to beds, there's nothing worse than having pressure points on your hips and shoulders because the mattress doesn't have enough give to provide even support along your body.
My bed has a thick mattress of medium firmness, pocket sprung with a memory foam layer on top and it's the most comfortable place in the world as far as I'm concerned.
Holiday homes all seem to source their mattresses from the same supplier - presumably a long-established company whose business has its origins in the middle ages when they specialised in torture devices. Obviously, as the years progressed and torture gradually became less and less fashionable they had to move with the times, but they've never allowed themselves to forget their roots.

Beds aside, it's still good to have a change of scenery for a few days, and even if you come to feel that the sole purpose of a holiday is to make you appreciate your own home, the experience is rarely wasted.
We had a few days without the incessant background noises associated with a 19 year-old who enjoys rap music and swearing profusely at the Playstation, and he had a few days without being constantly nagged to "turn that bloody noise down", "give your liver a rest", and "stop fucking swearing".

Blickling Hall - luckily it wasn't raining that day.

At one with nature.

Fishing boats on Cromer beach.

 Proper engineering.