About turn in Norwich

Monday 25 to Friday 29 September

Monday was messy in Norwich.

Bruce had tracked down a coffee shop for breakfast about a twenty minute walk away. When we arrived at the address there was a car body repair shop and nothing else. We turned around and headed back to the hotel, picked up the car and drove into a nearby mall where we finally found breakfast. We did track down the coffee shop, same street number but in a different area – Google’s fault.

We then took some washing to the local laundromat. Laundromats would have to be the last thing left on earth, they are horrible places. We walked a bit and sat for a bit, watching things go round in circles and people coming and going. Finally, with a bag full of clean clothes, we headed out to see Norwich.

First stop was a Olympus Camera Dealer, to see about repairing Bruce’s newest lens that had developed a disturbing rattle. Yes, it could be repaired, but it would have to go to Portugal and will take up to six weeks. Timing was OK, given that we were spending about that time in the UK. We debated, and pondered, then finally decided not to get it repaired and hoped the rattle didn’t become serious on our journey to South America and Antarctica. It was a hard decision.

Norwich was delightful. We wandered around the streets, then to the castle then to the cathedral, stopping to admire the statue of Nelson. I was interested to see a memorial to Thomas Fowell Busxton, who as a member of Parliament abolished slavery in the British Empire in 1833. He was also the founding chairman of the RSPCA and fought to abolish capital punishment. He is not buried at the cathedral, but in the village of Overstrand near Cromer.

My interest in him stems from our visit to Africa in 2016, particularly Zanzibar where we saw an exhibition on slavery at the Old Slave Market.

We continued our walk, first to Pull’s Ferry where John Pull ferried passengers across the River Wensum from 1796 to 1841. His home adjoined a 15th century Watergate, which was the entrance to a canal that was used to ferry stone and building materials for Norwich Cathedral during its construction which commenced in the 11th century.

We stopped by Cow Tower built in 1398-9 as one of the earliest purpose-built artillery blockhouses, defending the city across the River Wensum. Its design was suitable for the recently developed cannons as well as crossbows and small guns.

There are a lot of lovely bridges across the river, and the walk in the early evening deserved a sit and rest at a local tavern beside the John Jarrold Printing Museum, which was St James Mill near the Whitefriars Bridge.

We headed back to our hotel, stopping at another delightful pub for a meal.

It was late when we got back, after 11pm when the worst phone call of my life came through. My sister Kate was calling to tell me our beautiful brother Phil had died. We felt shattered.

I crawled into bed and wept and wailed the night away – I was so very, very sad.

Phil had come home from work and sat down to watch the Brownlow Medals awards, Australian Football’s highest accolade. He had fallen asleep. Forever.

That was the end of my messy day.

Of course, we had to extract ourselves from whatever we were doing and wherever we were planning to go.

Fortunately, we were in England where communication was relatively easy, as was language. Insurance, plane tickets, return the leased car, let friends we were planning to visit know. Our hotel allowed us to stay on later in the day, to make the plans.

The first flight that QANTAS could offer was Friday – we would be home Saturday evening, just after the Grand Final had finished. Phil was a football tragic.

Planning was already underway for a funeral and a wake.

So we headed to our next planned stop of Sutton Bridge, via King’s Lynn, our last stop along the East Anglia coast where the time zones would allow us to complete the plans for our journey home. Other places were planned, but our noses were pointed home.

The skies were gloomy over King’s Lynn, matching our moods. It is on the River Ouse – which is a major waterway in East Anglia.

King John (1167-1216) granted Lynn a charter in 1204, raising it to borough status, following rapid growth, to become the fourth port of the Kingdom. It became known as Bishop’s Lynn for the bishop of Norwich. King John began his last fateful journey from Lynn in October 1216, where the crown jewels were lost in the Wash. He was also the villain of the Robin Hood legend. He died a few days later at Newark Castle.

King Henry VIII renamed the town King’s Lynn in 1537, ousting ‘Our Lord of Norwich’.

The Town Hall and Trinity Guild Hall are beautiful buildings. We enjoyed the town – it was quiet and not asking much of us.

We drove to Heathrow. By now we had plans in place, with an emergency return of the car to Renault and the flight booked and paid for.

We had to wait one more day to fly out, so we drove to Windsor and walked the Long Walk, in anticipation of a cramped 24 hour flight.

Windsor Great Park put on a great show for us, deer in Deer Park and beautiful views to Windsor Castle from Snow Hill where the Copper Horse statue of King George III (as a roman emperor) sits. The chestnut trees were starting to turn golden and chestnuts were falling as we walked.

We sat in a café in the main street of Windsor, overlooking Windsor Castle, enjoying our last day in Europe for a month.

Foot weary and drained, we headed back to our hotel at Heathrow to do a final pack.

The only bright side of this long, arduous and sad journey was enquiring about getting Bruce’s lens fixed in Melbourne, where he had bought it.