“Come to Norfolk” they said. “It’ll be fun” they said.
BBC Weather was predicting Armageddon in Norfolk.
So three o’clock on the afternoon of Friday the 16th sees me switching on Gladys the sat nav to be told I was 3 ½ hours away from our chosen campsite in Scole. Not too bad. I should be there by 6.30 with plenty of light to pitch my travelling gentlemen’s abode. Gladys is a liar!
Poppy was piled full of camping gear, tools and gentleman’s refreshment. Oh ok, Merlot and cake. Poppy was full of Merlot and cake… and a Fatbloke. Despite this heavy burden, plucky little Poppy pressed on and was making good time as we were whizzing through the Oxfordshire, Northampton shire and Cambridgeshire countryside, on our non-motorway route. The roof was down and both Poppy and I had big grins on our faces.
All was going well… Too well… It couldn’t last and it didn’t. The A14 and a 10 mile tailback saw to that. The grins on our faces would have soon turned to boredom but Status Quo playing loudly in an open top classic car is rather grin maintaining. I could see my fellow motorists were enjoying the music too as I could see them mouthing the lyrics at me as we slowly drove along. At least I think that’s what they were mouthing as I couldn’t hear them above the music, but who can resist singing along with the Quo?
So after a considerable time rolling gently along interspersed with periods of complete inactivity, the traffic inexplicably started moving again with nothing to account for the delay apart from a lorry parked in a ditch. Gladys was mocking me with her revised ETA of 8PM. Big black clouds were building ahead, daylight was fading and Poppy was running low on petrol. I also REALLY needed to use some facilities. However, this being the darkest wastelands of the east, I was starting to worry that they may not have invented service stations here yet and I was sure it was going to start raining any second.
After a worrying amount of time the dim glow of oil lamps revealed that they have indeed invented service stations of a sort here. Facilities were visited, petrol dispensed and roof was securely raised before I set off again.
It wasn’t long before I passed the sign saying “Welcome to Norfolk” where I was instantly transported onto the set of Hammer House of Horrors”. Poppy and I were navigating very dark, twisty, tree lined lanes with the wipers frantically beating in a vain effort to clear the lashing rain and windblown wet leaves from the window. All it needed was a clap of thunder and my headlights to pick out an image of Christopher Lee leering at me from between the trees and I would have been that 10 year old boy watching from behind the sofa again.
With my heart pounding out of my chest, we pressed on and 5 hours after leaving a sunny Royal Wootton Bassett, Poppy eventually pulled into the pitch dark campsite. Strange figures were shuffling under the willow trees. Was I really in a Hammer production and they were the strange manlike Norfolk Beasts? No. To my great relief it was Phil Allin, Gar Cole and Keith Lloyd bearing beer and smiles. I’d made it!
The next 30 minutes was spent fumbling in the dark and the rain putting up my tent and glancing enviously at the Allin’s luxurious caravan, but eventually I had my cosy abode set up and appointed.
The rest of the evening was spent hiding under a willow tree, drinking Phil’s beer and regaling each other with our day’s adventures before retiring for a good night’s sleep. It was shortly after midnight that I was awoken by a very loud and dreadfully frightening roaring snorting sound. I was immediately back in a Hammer production and I imagined the “Norfolk Beast” rampaging through the campsite. So I did the only thing a brave and manly ex prop forward could do. I pulled my sleeping bag over my head and hid.
The night progressed and the unholy noise continued unabated until I could stand it no more. I valiantly leapt from my tent brandishing the only weapon I could find, a partially frozen hot dog roll, and stealthily proceeded to follow the dreadful cacophony to its source.
Imagine my surprise to find it coming from our very own Gar Cole’s tent! It was obvious to me what had happened, Gar has been afflicted with the curse of the “Norfolk Beast” and “turns” at midnight when within the borders of Norfolk. No human could ever make that discordant racket. It was clear that in his altered state, Gar had forgotten how to work a zip and was trapped in his tent so I returned to bed and with socks stuffed in my ears I fell back to sleep.
The following morning dawned grey and drizzly and to my great relief Gar was restored to his human form and apparently had no recollection of his traumatic night time transformation. He was passing in mountains of Bacon to Phil to be cooked in his luxurious caravan. So, not one to pass up the opportunity to avoid cooking, I passed in some sausages too.
Now it was daylight and we could see each other, re-introductions were made over delicious bacon and sausage baps.
Oil levels were checked and engines started ready to set off when the air was torn asunder by a dreadful crashing grinding noise that sent a shiver down our spines. Had the Norfolk Beast returned in daylight? No, it was Gar trying to select 1st gear in Princess Okki. A quick investigation revealed a dry clutch master cylinder which was quickly topped up and bled through and our small 4 car convoy set off for Bressingham Steam and Gardens turning many a head as we went.
To be continued.......
By Mike Peake
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