The Compostual Existentialist

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Cromer

It is well known, perhaps written in ancient scripture, that a day out to the British seaside is something everyone must commit to at some point in their life. In that regard, I am blessed for I try to make regular trips to the seaside.

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Living in the centre of the UK, where nearly everything is three and a half hours away, means that I am the furthest away from the seaside as you can be at any point in the UK. Moreover, the selection of seaside destinations reachable within a reasonable time from this point is a little bit grim. Hunstanton is one such place, with its miles of coastal caravan parks; Skegness is another, again with miles of coastal caravan parks. And yet for just a half hour extra drive, one can reach beautiful Cromer, which is where Mrs Gnomepants V2.0 and I have just spent our bank holiday weekend.

Cromer Pier

Cromer Pier

Regular readers (if there are any left) will know that I have visited Cromer before – a small sleepy Norfolk coastal town famous for its crabs. Cromer’s tiny streets are littered with shops selling curios, knick-knacks and tat that most people will only use once, a place which once enjoyed a grander time of bathing machines, day trip ferries embarked via a pier and swanky hotels staffed by gentlemen in smart uniforms. A place as yet unspoilt by amusement arcades, kiss me quick hats and leery youths on drunken stag weekends.

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Cromer seafront, pier and approach

A trip to the British seaside comes with a checklist of things to do. Over the years I have pared down my list to three things:

  • Fish and chips
  • Ice cream
  • Walk along the prom

While I might also occasionally chuck in “a paddle”, “Cream tea in the afternoon” and “A play on the penny cascades”, the core holy trinity of food and a walk does me just fine these days, and this weekend I managed all three successfully. The waters around Cromer are Norfolk brown in colour and not the tropical azure that I am used to these days and the thought of dissolving my feet paddling in effluent still does not fill me with joy. Cream teas, while abundant at British seasides, are only really any good when in Devon or Cornwall (sorry, I’m a jam first kind of heathen) and the lack of (or inability to find) arcades in Cromer saw away any chance of chucking away half a tonne of copper coins in the hope of winning a bottle opener in the shape of a naked lady.

Fish and Chips

Fish and chips @ Mary Janes

Mary Janes, Cromer

Mary Janes, Cromer

None the less, our trip to Cromer was most enjoyable. The seaside ennui began with a late lunch of fish and chips in Mary Janes. Quality, no fuss large cod and chips and a roll and butter for me, with an unbattered haddock and chips for Zoe. I tell you, providing you do your research well, fish and chips at the seaside never fails to please. Unless you’re one of those strange people who doesn’t like fish and chips. Mary Jane’s is a favourite of mine, with Scarborough’s Golden Grid and Whitby’s Magpie Cafe also in the top five fish and chip shops in the UK. Naturally, as any Yorkshireman would testify, the best fish and chips in the world are from Yorkshire, but alas, when it’s a four-hour drive to the Weatherby Whaler, Mary Jane’s will have to suffice. Oh, and don’t let anyone tell you that Harry Ramsden’s is quality fish and chips either. If they do, slap them with a wet piece of huss and tell them to get hence to McDonald’s for a Fillet-o-fish.

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Further sights of Cromer

Next on the checklist was an ice cream. Now I’m a sucker for a whippy ice cream with a flake, but I’m also a sucker for locally produced ice creams as they tend to have unusual flavours. So we took a brisk walk along the pier and the prom (sadly, no brass bands tiddly-om-pom-poming) in hope of finding something worthwhile. Now, as the sun was out in all its glory in Norfolk this weekend, it seemed that every man and his wife, four kids and dog, were also out in force. As a result, the more ideally placed ice cream shops were rammed or had a line of queues outside. Indeed, the pier was quite busy, especially at the embarkation end (where the RNLI lifeboat station is) were middle-aged fathers tried to terrify their children into enjoying themselves by threatening them with freshly crab-laddered crabs. There were even a couple of armed policemen, but such a sight is the norm now that the British Police State is under martial law.

 

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Henry Bloggs, Bigger hero than you

Cromer was also home to the bravest man who ever lived, Henry Bloggs. Bloggs and his chums would fearlessly brave the elements, row a wooden boat far out to sea and rescue drowning townies from watery deaths while smoking a pipe and looking rather cool in a sou’wester. In force 10 gales. For free. With rain lashing his chops. Now you don’t see people doing much of that these days do you? No. You don’t. Now that’s bravery. And, when you’re that brave, you get medals, your own monument and a museum named after you. Not bad eh? Oh, and you also have lots of murals drawn around your town in your honour. Makes helping an old biddy with their shopping seem a bit limp.

 

 

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More Cromerian sights

 

Sadly parking is a premium in Cromer on popular days, so three hours is not enough to enjoy a sit and a watch of the world going by so we had to leave. Previous visits to this part of the coast, however, had involved a stay or visit to Sheringham and being a stickler for tradition, it was only fair that we popped in to see what the place looks like in season, even if it was only for half an hour.

 

Sheringham is the upmarket sister of Cromer. Middle classes, mostly with nearby holiday homes, price out the locals and swan about like they own the place. Mostly because they do. The stark difference between Cromer and Sheringham is evident from the upmarket theatre and selection of nearby restaurants in Sheringham. While Cromer’s fish and chips attract some diners, it is Sherringham’s mix of Nepalese, Thai and European restaurants that mark the contrast there. Indeed, short of organic, artesian gluten-free neo-paleo hypoallergenic ice creams, it is hard not to delight at the pomposity of some of the patrons. Children with names such as Pompidu, Sefton and Chanterey freely express themselves while aloof mums swig large glasses of Prosecco and dads pander to Parmesan and Chigley’s ever increasing demands in an attempt to be the best fathers ever.

 

Indeed, much like Cromer, there are rows and rows of chalets lining the prom. For non-Brits reading, a chalet or beach hut is basically a really expensive garden shed which you’re not allowed to live in. However, it is this quirk that makes this part of the coast so picturesque. The sight of painted wooden huts often with unusual names being cracked open for the first time in six months is a delight to behold and, much like the bathing machine houses in Scarborough and Cromer, is an important part of British seaside heritage.

With bellies full of noms and a distance to travel to our B&B, we left the Norfolk coast once more and headed inland for further bank holiday adventure.


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In Alton Towers you Will find you can leave your cares behind

Apart from when Mrs Gnomepants V1.0 and I visited in the early noughties, and when Mrs Gnomepants v2.0  and I went swimming there in 2016, the last time I was in Alton Towers was when I was 14. So what poetry it was to take my 14 year old niece there as an Uncley Treat.

Of course, when I was 14, my fun Aunt had passed away a couple of years previously and my remaining grandparents were too frail to attempt the trip, let alone the standing around waiting for young me to get off the rides. Instead I had to wait for the school to take me which, tradition dictated, they did with all the other boys as an end of academic year treat right through secondary school, although during following years they offered other trips such as climbing mountains or some such.

So it seemed right that I took my niece to the Earl of Staffordshire’s pile where upon I took great delight at having her walk well over 9 miles in a day without actually realising. Hah! Alton Towers, for those not in the know, is the UK’s premier rollercoaster theme park. Or at least that’s what it claims to be. Set in the gardens and grounds of the ruins of a former stately home, some enterprising cove set about building elaborate nests of  twisted metal upon which people can sit and experience accelleration and exhileration at high speed with the associated pull and tug of gravity on their leathery chops.

One such ride is Oblivion which teeters on the brink of an iron precipice before plummeting its screaming riders into a pit of darkness. There was no way I was going on that.

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Death by splat

Another such ride was Nemisis which Mrs Gnomepants V2.0  claimed was “Nice and smooth” which must be the alt-fact definition of “OMG I’m going to die” as I found out. As for Smiler, well I’m quite attached to my legs so I didn’t fancy going on that and I also didn’t fancy whiplash so I avoided Rita too. However, I did manage Hex, Thirteen and Grand Canyon Rapids so I think I got my £30’s worth. Especially as I was also tricked by Mrs Gnomepants V2.0  to go on Enterprise which by all accounts was just a tumble drier simulator.

Of course Alton Towers is not just death roulette machines, its acres and acres of picturesque landscaped gardens. Some of the ruins belay the once grand manse that was Alton Towers. Summer houses and decayed greenhouses now overgrown with vegetation while here and there are hidden speakers piping irritating music into area where irritating music shouldn’t be.  The cable cars over the area do give you a better, plinky-plonky-less experience.

If you’ve ever played the PC classic Rollercoaster Tycoon or early nineties Bullfrog classic Theme Park then, like me, you’d probably have spent the day imagining people walking round with think bubbles saying things like “£2.75 is too expensive for a bottle of pop” or “I feel sick” while sporting green pukey smileys above their heads. Or looking skyward in the hope of spying a pair of pincers dropping in a new ride or even imagining that the popcorn tasted good because the themepark management AI decided that it could do with an equal mix of salt and sugar.

In all though it was a most enjoyable day out. I can’t wait to do it again when my nephew is a little taller/older, but probably by that time the rides will all be different again.


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Re-enacting the past

For shitz and gigglz I took Zoe to the Great Central Railway near Loughborough. It was a special day there as they were holding a Second World War day where each of the four stations were “zoned” into different “fronts” of the Second World War. It was a very enjoyable day out, with people dressed in period costumes, stalls selling period things, period food and drink and music from the era.

While walking round I was struck by the thought of how iconic that period was. It was a time of strife, knuckling down and patriotism. It was a time that many people today lived through themselves. Unlike the likes of say Civil War re-enactment this period was still in living memory.

And that got me thinking. What will people re-enact in the future? What iconic periods have we lived through in recent years? Will they re-enact say, the 1980s? The 1970s? Or even the noughties? What would they do?

Well, now you can join in on my special 1980s re-enactment.

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>Geocaching 2010

So this weekend saw the start of the Geocaching season for me. Ok, technically it was a few weeks ago when I went mooching round Wooley Edge and bagged two caches while trying out new software. Zoe and I decided to start out with some easy ones to get us back into the swing of things.

The first trip took us to a disused railway bridge out at Hunningham near Leamington Spa. As I say, it’s been a while but it’s the little things like spotting good places to park, working out that the direct path is not always the best and if at first you can’t find the cache – look in the most obvious place.

So on getting there it became apparent that there was no easy way to get up to where I needed to be. Short of taking a good 4 mile walk to get to the cache the only other option was to scramble through undergrowth and up some rubble.

Further adventures were had trying to navigate a field of potatoes. We could either take the direct path across the crops or round the edge of the field adding about 30 minutes onto the trip. The crops were safe as we opted for the indirect approach which, fortunately, took in another cache on the way.

The glorious sunshine which graced the midlands today meant that rather than the usual slobbing out on the couch, Zoe and I would do some more geocaching. Today’s trip reminded me of why I really enjoy the hobby.

The UK is a beautiful picturesque land. There’s so much to see but often we ignore places because, on maps, there doesn’t seem to be anything there.

However Geocaching takes you to some of the most interesting places that you wouldn’t ordinarily visit.  So today’s trip took us to the lovely sleepy village of Weston Under Wetherley.

I mean look at it. It’s just gorgeous. Makes you feel British. I can just imagine poncing about the place in my blazer with service medals and being called Major or something. So this has reignited the desire to mooch about the countryside looking for bits of concealed tupperware while armed only with my HTC HD2.

Anyway, the glorious weather seems to have awoken other cachers as the travel bug – the Stegzy Gnomepants’ Badger’s Coastal Tour Travel Bug has also been on the move. So it seems the season has begun, work permitting, I intend to do many more caches this year. Maybe actually getting to places outside of the West Midlands and Yorkshire.

And yet I still find myself wishing there was something like this when I was younger….

A Day Out in West Yorkshire

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I apologise about the quality. I’m still getting to grips with my new camera phone.

Emley Moor mast

 

Emley Moor Mast

It’s like a giant willy! Piercing the sky, broadcasting it’s signal far and wide

The Bottom




View! View! Look how far you can see!



This is Yorkshire. Thirty years ago all that would have been coal mines


Gnomepants Manor. Yeah right! I wish


There is something sexual about canal boats entering a tunnel.


Here there be trains



In Yorkshire, even the sheep are made of steel.


All high streets in England look like this. Honest.


Essential for making a good rissoto.

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Nostell Steam Rally

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Today was such a lovely day it was agreed that tools should be downed and that a visit to the Nostell Steam Rally would be in order. Now don’t get me wrong; I am not some weirdo steam enthusiast that wanks lyrical about steam. I’m not. I like steam engines. I can stand and watch their technological wizardry for hours. But if I never saw another steam engine then I wouldn’t be bitter. I’d be a bit sad maybe, but I wouldn’t like like “OMG! ONOES! T EH steamz0rzzzz WTF!”

Still, I do like a good gathering of people that like to display their weirdnesses. At £6 entrance fee, it was reasonably priced. I got to see lots of steam engines (from ickle tiny ones to HUGE “mo’fo’ get out the way or it will squish you” ones. Also in the bargain was a vintage car rally. There was a time when Ford Granada’s were common place. Now they are classed as vintage! This also goes for Capris which, rather bizarrely, have an owners club based in Leeds. See that sort of passion, I cannot understand, but still some people like that sort of thing so who am I to judge.

So I took some piccies and some video but my camera phone has been playing up recently (How fortuitous. It was working like a dream last week and now that I’m in range of my contract expiring it has started to goof up, funny that isn’t it? No doubt if I ring Orange up and say “Oi My phone is knackered!” they would say “Oh well seeing as your contract runs out in July why not upgrade and have a new contract with it. Yeah right) so I have no guarantee there is sound on the videos.

So without further ado (and because I’ve got a 16oz Rump steak with my name on it in the fridge) may I present the photos that came out.


Nostell Priory


The entrance to the rally


Steam things


A steam powered thing


Yet another steam powered thing


It’s a Capri, it might as well be steam powered. Did you know Ford used special rust generating steel to make Ford Capris?


A bus (petrol or possibly diesel powered but for the purposes of this post please imagine it is steam powered)


Tractors. There be farmers around somewhere.


Look mum! Steam things!


Steam powered birds of prey!


A steam powered mini (ok maybe not but it’s a minimini)

A steam powered organ thing

Another steam powered organ thing

Yet one more steam powered organ thing