The Compostual Existentialist

Wordpress flavour with added crunchy bits


Leave a comment

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.

145758_original

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.

146520_300

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.

cromer1

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.

 

147066_original

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.

 

 

cromer2

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.

Advertisements


Leave a comment

Sunny Days

As the sun gets stronger through the year and the days get warmer and brighter, our thoughts turn to outdoor pursuits. Walking, picnicing, nose picking, porn foraging and, most popular of all, barbecues.

Now, I’ve got a thing about barbecues. I used to love ’em. Nuked meat Russian roulette. You either get a charcoal cinder or a black and crusty raw and bloody surprise. Love em.

However these days I realise the horror of having barbecues. The hours of slaving over red hot coals ensuring your guests have ample mountains of food (most of which you’ll either under or over accommodate for) knocking back beer after beer in an attempt to keep up with the guests who are getting merrier by the minute because they are sat down in comfort while you serve their every whim.

Then you get to sit down. You get the cold soggy left over bits that nobody wanted. The suspicious looking burger. The dodgy looking kebab. The insidious looking chicken wings or quarters that will no doubt still be raw in the middle even after being on the heat for what seems like 30 years. The limp lettuce. The flaccid overcooked sausages. All the good, tasty looking bits have gone. Your feet ache. You’re not as pissed as everyone else there. It’s clouding over. People are starting to make “Lets go home now” motions.

Yeah. Thats fun.

Isn’t it?

No. The thing I like about barbecues is going. Sitting there while my host slaves over hot coals. Getting merrier and merrier because I’m sat down chatting old toot with the other guests. Getting plied with food, nibbles and drink by my host and his/her partner. Relaxing. Enjoying the time. Getting the nice juicy steak. The right looking sausages, the burgers that don’t look too over or under done. The chicken pieces that aren’t still squarking. Getting them all for myself. Leaving the other less attractive bits to the chef or what other poor sod turns up just before I get to go home.

Then once my gizzard is full and I am fully sated with beer and meat. I can then yawn. Make some shit excuse about having an early morning, and go home. Leaving the host to clear up.

Yeah. I like barbecues.


Leave a comment

Holiday 2012: Part 2–Day 4 Wall of Corn

 

Launceston CastleFollowing the mad tour of the east coast of Devon we decided to take a trip inland. Our guide books told us of the wonders of Cornwall and our brief trip across the Taymar on Tuesday showed us that Cornwall was closer than we thought.

But where to go were either of us hadn’t been before? Our first thought was “Oooh where does FJ Warren live? She’s Cornish. But the thought of a another long drive was not appealing. Instead we peeked at the maps and guidebooks and settled on Launceston.

Launceston Castle

According to the guidebooks, Launceston was the ancient Cornish capital. It had a castle, a steam train and other interesting things like cider farms on route. So it seemed like the natural choice. So once more across the Taymar we went noting for the second time that week that people are charged to leave Cornwall and not go in.

Launceston is…boring. Tatty around the edges. Pretty. But boring. After a brief 10 minute walk it appeared we had done Launceston. So we tootled up to the castle to have mooch there. But at £7 each to go and look around some crumbling ruins we thought £14 would be better spent on cake or fun. So way ahead of planned schedule we buggered off back to the car and went to see where else we could get to.

The Bodmin Moor of my childhood was not the Bodmin Moor of my middle age. Either there has been a new road built across the moor in the 30 or so years since my last visit or my dad took us across Bodmin Moor along some weird unmarked B road. So much so, by the time we had reached Bodmin I was like “Oh, we’re here already”.

Bodmin Steam Railway @ Bodmin GeneralBodmin was interesting. Well what we saw through the car windows. But with only shops and more money wanting to be spent we thought another stop mooching round a provincial town was not on the cards. So when the only place to park for free was up a side street alongside Bodmin General, part of the Bodmin Steam Railway, we thought “But a steam train ride might be fun!”

So that’s what we did. We bought 2 tickets to Boscarne and boarded the chuffing chuffer.

It was fun!

IMG_0550Badger enjoyed it too!

IMAG0231

When we returned we stopped for a cream tea.

Full of cake and after a bit of geocaching, we hopped back into the car and headed toward Polperro via Lostwithiel. Lostwithiel is described as the Medieval Capital of Cornwall. Again, it was quaint, children were playing in the river and shops seemed open.

One thing we had noticed during our time in the Southwest was that everyone seemed to be so miserable. Shop keepers and ice cream van men were no exception. I can only imagine that the misery was down to the lack of boobs on display. Cornwall needs more boobs. Or cake. Or maybe just a tickle.

PolperroAnyway, before misery got a grip, we headed off again, this time to Polperro. My nan and granddad visited Polperro when they were alive. I remember leafing through their photograph album at the pretty houses and narrow streets. Indeed it was. Narrow, quaint, overpriced and packed with tourists. Having been fleeced £4 for parking we wandered into the village to try and find somewhere to eat. We were a bit early and all the restaurants seemed to do nice fish dishes. Sadly none were open until half an hour after our parking expired and I didn’t feel like paying a further £4-£8 just to stuff my face. Our minds were made up by the time we had reached the quayside that we would head off to Looe and see if there was any other nice places to eat instead.

But before we could turn round and make our way back, a woman offered us a boat ride along the coast. How could we refuse?

So that’s what we did.

looeOn our return we made our way back through the tourists to the car and drove off to Looe. Looe reminded me of Skegness without the wind amusement arcades or Victoriana. It was heaving with tourists of the lower orders. Police men, our first since leaving the midlands, were talking to shouty drunk youths. Haggard teen mothers were dragging their screeching urchins. Young girls with more tattoos and piercings than a freak show jostled with loud shouty short haired scallies for chips from the harbour chippy. But our guidebooks insisted that there was good eating to be had somewhere in Looe.

And yes. They were right. We stopped for dinner at the Smuggler’s Cot in Looe where I had the biggest Lemon Sole (and bones) I’ve ever seen. It was delicious! Meanwhile Zoe struggled with her mammoth 20oz D cut rump steak. She assured me that was delicious too.


Leave a comment

Holiday 2012: Part 2–Day2 Plymouth

 

Ah Plymouth.

So when I was a kid I had a healthy interest in lighthouses. This was piqued by stories in a school book regarding the Eddystone Lighthouse on Eddystone rocks just off the coast of Plymouth.

In case you were unaware the Eddystone Lighthouse has been built four (arguably five) times. The first was made of wood and got washed away during a storm. The second caught fire and melted onto the people trying to put it out, the third developed cracks, the fourth still stands (with modifications such as helipad). The whole romance of the sea, mystery and adventure surrounding lighthouses just fuelled my desire to become a lighthouse keeper. The third lighthouse, Smeaton’s tower, was dismantled and rebuilt on the Hoe for shits and giggles  as a kind of public monument to those lost at sea and a museum of lighthouseololology. Or summat.

Smeaton's tower

Anyway because the tower had been rebuilt on the Hoe, it had always been a place I’d wanted to visit. So when the weather turned for the grot on the Tuesday we decided to continue our previous nights walk along the Hoe after we had found somewhere to eat for breakfast.

Our choice for breakfast was Little Chef. My map of Little Chefs (well…the map on their website) was a bit crap. The two identified on the map had either gone, as in the case of the one at Saltash, Cornwall  or it had the wrong address (as in the one supposedly to the east of Plymouth). So we thought stuff it, and went for breakfast in a quaint cafe in the Barbican district as long as we walked it off.

Our next intention was to go to the National Aquarium. But because of the crap weather the queues to get in were round the block. So the walk to the Hoe took priority.

Plymouth Hoe

Walking round the back of the Royal Citadel we made our way towards the Wheel. I wanted to see the Smeaton tower but I wasn’t prepared to pay £3 each just to go up some stairs and down again. Instead we looked at the other monuments and Zoe offered to pay for a ride on the Wheel.

 

 

IMAG0212

Despite the rain and the clouds there were some good views from up there. I never knew Plymouth was bombed like Coventry during the Blitz. It was interesting listening to the commentary though. I liked how the avenue was designed to be a pathway from the station to the Hoe. It’s a shame that the architects who redesigned Coventry didn’t have similar artistic skills instead of a passion for concrete.

So after that we went into the town centre where I bought a new bag, a nice shirt and some new trousers. I had intended on wearing the trousers that evening but Zoe suggested I waited because the wet pavements would have made them mucky.

 

That evening we dined on fine fish at Platters. We both had white bait for starters and the seafood mixed grill for mains – Five types of fish, grilled and served with a mountain of chips. Ace biscuits!

 


1 Comment

Sundae Sunday

On Sunday I was overcome with the burning desire for an ice cream sundae. The urge took me much in the same way as I imagine a smack head might desire heroin. So, jumping into the car, I made headway to Sainsbury’s wherein I purchased the necessary ingredients to make a delicious raspberry ice cream sundae.

As you can see I bought all the necessary ingredients including some essential for a dairy free sundae Sunday treat for Zoe, who is allergic to dairy.

Ten minutes of sculpting ice cream, poking flakes and scattering chopped nuts the results emerged.

The one on the right is the dairy free one.

They were both devoured with a speed faster than the two donkeys I got in the Grand National office sweepstakes.


Leave a comment

Ooops

Pizza for tea tonight ended in disaster when, trying to be posh, seasoning the cooked pizza with freshly ground black pepper, the bottom fell off the 3 year old over large never ending pepper grinder and my dinner ended up buried under a mountain of pepper corns.

I’m now finding pepper corns all over the house.