This year, half a share in a chess set, a gold bee necklace (I’d just re-read Angelmaker but the bee is not mechanical), the usual tenner from the APs and a weekend away camping. Handily, the latest boyfriend’s birthday is on the same day, so he has the other half-share in the chess set. I am comprehensively rubbish at chess, so it’s an aspirational present, in that I aspire to something more than ‘Remind me how the cute little horse moves again?’
We set off to go camping in the sort of weather that makes sensible people shudder, draw the curtains and pop the kettle on. Between Google directions and sheer luck, we navigated the wilds of Norfolk and found the farm where the pitch was booked. There is some slight irony in paying to stay in a field on a horse farm for a couple of days, when the rest of the time I pay to live in a converted barn on a horse farm, with a view of a field. (This has been quite some problem in booking cottages for weekends away. I’m usually looking for somewhere quiet and rural, and I favour old places with wood-burning stoves. My sister pointed out that I should just stay at home and save £350, and she’s right.)
The tent was pitched by torchlight in the teeth of a gale, while the rain poured down in a most un-birthdaylike way. I sat helpfully in the car, reading out the instructions, until it was my turn to contribute by dishing up the magnificent birthday supper. So I opened the thermos of tea and doled out the bread and cheese.
While I cannot sleep through the slightest urban disturbance, rain drumming on whatever-the-modern-equivalent-of-canvas-is, horses whinnying, cockerels crowing and wind rustling the tent don’t bother me at all. One night spent sleeping on hard ground is also great for straightening my back, and thus is it proven that I’m not a real princess. Sigh.
The camp site was within decent walking distance of Wells-next-the-Sea, so that was Saturday’s plan. Fortified with tea, leftover bread and cheese and ginger biscuits (because you’re allowed scratch meals when camping, that’s part of the fun) we set off in search of beach huts, amusement arcades and chips.
Behold the beach huts! If you ask me, Well-next-the-Sea has more than its fair share, and most unreasonably, none of them are mine. Also, what you need with that amount of sand to play with, is a great, lolloping dog. Probably of the Irish wolfhound variety. Meanwhile, back in the real world, it was time for the trip to turn seedy.
For the most part, gambling bores the arse off me but I do like the two-penny waterfalls that are still to be found in seaside amusements. So I recklessly threw away a whole pound, and all the incidental winnings on the off-chance of winning a horrible plastic keyring. I came away about £1.40 down, a wiser woman, and let us hope that I have learned my lesson that gambling doesn’t pay.
(That was the seedy part, in case you couldn’t tell.)
The calculations as to appropriate chip-eating time were complex: there was a 5 mile walk back to the camp site and we had no intention of dragging ourselves further than the village pub once we got there. That meant chips were probably dinner but we also had to be back before it got dark. Then, as everyone knows, chips are best eaten while walking along a sea-front, but in accurately named Wells-next-the-Sea, the sea itself is too far from the chippy. Like, totally ZOMG, how were all these factors to be reconciled? After exploring every shop in Wells, buying a paper so that the big crossword could provide the evening’s entertainment and identifying the marina as the next best thing to an actual sea front, it was finally time. They were the best chips I’d had in ages, too.