Back to the south east again! Sunday 7th February I drive up to Essex to spend some nice quality time with my wife and son. We had a nice couple of days, but then come early Wednesday morning I was off at the crack of dawn heading up the merry old A12 towards Norfolk and a return visit to the wonderful Caister Junior School. The journey started off very well and I was making good progress, but it was cold outside and getting colder. We suddenly had a tremendous flurry of snow, but it didn't seem to settle. Getting up into Suffolk there was suddenly frequent announcements on the radio that because of icy conditions, the A47 east of Norwich was now shut - this is where I needed to go to get to Caister. I cut across country and was soon making even better progress - this was going to be a doddle! Then it snowed again. Almost as soon as it snowed the moisture on the road froze solid. A pleasant easy main A-road to drive along immediately morphed into a slick, sheet-ice, hell hole. A long queue of traffic snaked ahead of me and we crawled along at only just over 10 mph and keeping a big enough space to the car in front in case we needed to stop, something that would be virtually impossible on this surface. As 9am approached I phoned the school to explain why I was so late - they were great, very understanding and just said "get here safe and sound, that's all that matters". Well it was worth it when I got there! A big group of brilliant children, bright, sparky and full of laughter. Their costumes were as brilliant as ever. The teachers were lovely and welcoming as well, particularly Snow White! (She'll know who I mean!). The afternoon session was wild and full of laughter and the jousting was deafening! It was a rip-roaring success and ended with a very close finish with the Ladies team just triumphing. This brought our score now to:
GENTLEMEN 10 - 15 LADIES
It's getting interesting now folks!
Amidst more flurries of snow I headed up the now re-opened A47 and headed for Acle and my appointment with a Travelodge there! Now I hadn't stayed in a Travelodge since I did the Education Show at the NEC in Birmingham back in 2006 - well I was very pleasantly surprised. A big comfy room, double bed, en suite shower room, secluded lighting and a posh plasma screen telly on the wall. And all this for just £29! The receptionist was also very pleasant and charming and was very interested in my job as Henry! I veged out in my room for the evening listening to music on my MP3 player and reading the entertaining but slightly melancholy new Sue Townshend "Adrian Mole" book.
Up bright and early and over to Drayton for a return visit to another lovely school - Drayton Junior. Another warm welcome from Angela the lovely teacher and we were soon off and running. It was another superb group, very quiet to begin with but getting brighter and louder as the day went on and in the end we had a roof lifting jousting tournament. The Gents stormed to a resounding victory. This brings our score to:
GENTLEMEN 11 - 15 LADIES
This is getting closer and closer. Drayton was a lovely school to visit and I had a lovely chat at lunchtime with a charming young trainee teacher from Ireland. A wonderful young lady.
I began to head for Basildon and dinner with my wife and son. I made very good progress until I got just south of Colchester. While bombing along at about 75MPH my front right tyre suddenly blew. The car slewed sideways and I ended up rumbling along at about 20MPH desperate to get to a lay by. I finally stopped and got out to survey the damage. The tyre was shredded and hanging off the metal tyre rim in sad looking strips. I checked the spare tyre - it was a emergency space saver, suitable only for slow driving and about 50 miles in total, and I had to get back to Somerset. I was not a member of the RAC or AA. Problems. With several phone calls to my wife, my mother and a friend in Colchester, I was eventually a member of the RAC and awaiting saving. I had been sitting in the lay by for about an hour when a big vehicle suddenly screamed to a halt behind me. It turned out it was the Police asking me if I was OK, which was quite re-assuring. After they had gone the RAC phoned back and said someone would be with me within the hour. As soon as they had gone another big pick up suddenly screamed to a halt behind me. I saw a figure get out and starting circling round the back of my car. This must be the RAC bloke - the figure wandered round next to my door, so I wound down the window and said "hello". The effect was electric - the big figure dashed round to the near side of my car and for some reason began to look into the scrubby undergrowth next to the carriageway, as if looking for something. He then turned round, whistled nonchalantly, and waddled off back to his pick up. He drove off. What the hell was that all about? When the real RAC bloke turned up he said with absolute definition that the man in question must have been a "pikey" checking out my car to see if it was abandoned and if he could ransack it. Nice.
Well I eventually got the car sorted, a new tyre, and finally I was on my way - at just short of 9pm. The tyre had burst at about 5pm. I got back to Crewkerne at about 11.30pm and was just so exhausted that I immediately collapsed into bed. I was glad to be home, but too tired for any good this weekend, so my visit to the Lake District and return visit to see Andy and Kate near Penrith has had to be postponed.
Half term next week and a visit to Wales with my son to see his Grandparents. Should be fun!