I’ve been in East Anglia these past couple of days, on a hastily arranged visit to see my father. Because of the Covid-19 situation, dad’s care home is still not admitting visitors, but to the credit of the whole team there, residents and staff have managed to remain free of the virus, ever since it first raised its ugly little head.
This meant that son Matthew and I weren’t able to enter the home and instead had to communicate with dad through the window of his room. This wasn’t quite as easy as anticipated, as whilst the entire home is single storey, the ground at the rear slopes away. It was therefore necessary for Matthew and I to take turns standing on a stepladder; a surreal and rather comic experience, but one that was well worth it.
To be truthful, I’m not sure dad recognised the identity of the two strange men peering in through his window, but seeing as he hardly opened his eyes, that probably didn’t matter. We chatted, largely about nothing, as the Alzheimer’s cruelly continues to ravage his brain, depriving him of all but the most basic of memories, but he looked in reasonable shape for someone in his late 80’s.
The important thing is we saw him; the first time in 10 months for me, and over two years for Matthew - bad weather and Coronavirus both having played a role in preventing visits, up until now. We are fortunate that our choice of care home paid off, and that dad is being well looked after, in a compassionate and caring environment.
Now I know some people think nothing of driving halfway across the country, just to tick off a missing GBG pub or two, but it is a bit more of an expedition for me. For a start, I like my creature comforts, and whilst it is perfectly feasible to drive up to Norfolk and back in a day, I do like the luxury of an overnight stay.
Finding suitable accommodation proved something of a challenge, especially as the trip was hurriedly arranged at the end of one of the most stressful and tiring weeks I’ve experienced at work for a long time. Fortunately, the Premier Inn at King’s Lynn came to the rescue with a twin room for just £42. What’s more it provided the opportunity of exploring a town I’d only touched briefly on, in previous visits, so just after 11am Sunday morning, we jumped in the car and set off for deepest Norfolk.
We took Matthew’s car for a change, on what would be its first long drive since he acquired it two years ago. Even so it was dad who did nearly all the driving! Being an automatic, it took a bit of getting used to, and I had to keep reminding myself not to reach for the gear stick every time we approached a junction or came to a roundabout. We made good progress though, following a route that saw us turning off the A14 north of Newmarket, and cutting up towards Ely, via Soham.
We were in danger of arriving too early for our 2pm check-in, so turned off the A10 for a brief look around Downham Market. I’ve bypassed the town a few times, but this was the first opportunity to see the town at first hand. It seemed pleasant enough, although there wasn’t much open in the town on a Sunday afternoon, but the local Morrison’s proved handy to grab a £3 meal deal, and for a “comfort stop.” From there it was a short 11-mile drive to King’s Lynn and the fun and games trying to locate the Premier Inn – even with the aid of Matthew’s sat-nav.
Before going further, I’d like to apologise to Retired Martin, for not arranging a meet-up whilst in his part of the country. It ought to be a double apology as well, because after seeing dad we stopped off in nearby Dereham. We’d talked about a visit to the Cherry Tree pub, just off the town’s Market Place, as it appears on CAMRA’s National Inventory List, as having an interior of regional importance.
Martin has a friend who lives locally, but for reasons best known to himself, has never set foot in the pub. The plan was, that next time I was in Dereham to visit dad, we would meet up and make a point of calling in at the Cherry Tree to see what it was really like. Unfortunately, our whistle-stop visit precluded such a meeting, but if it’s any consolation Martin, I took a couple of photos as we walked by, and a quick look in through the windows indicated a pleasant and welcoming interior will await us, when we finally step inside.
I’ll leave things there for the time being, as I want to write separately about our visit to King’s Lynn, but our brief trip did mean time for some father-son bonding. It also provided a most welcome break from the day to day grind of work, and the over-crowded south east. It was also my first night away from home since February, when Mrs PBT’s and I took a trip to South Wales; albeit for a family funeral. We stayed at a Premier Inn on that occasion too – it will be worthwhile us buying shares in the chain at this rate!