How Romantic Can August Bank Holiday Get?

The August Bank Holiday weekend is at its best when (a) it doesn’t rain and (b) you get propositioned. Three years ago, I spent a sunny day at the seaside with an old friend I hadn’t seen in a while. We were outside the Red Lion Hotel in Cromer when I rashly asked what he’d like to do next.

Red lion by Matthew Strickland

“If I tell you, you’ll slap me,” came his response.

Reader, I married him. And this Bank Holiday weekend we returned to East Anglia and the sand and the sea to revisit that day.

It was very romantic and very English.  Now I will share some of the very Englishness of the Bank Holiday with you, starting with Cromer pier

Cromier Pier, Norfolk

What’s a pier without a proper end-of-the-pier show?

Cromer end of the pier show

It starts at 4pm on Saturdays, instead of the traditional time of 2.30pm, according to two disgruntled pier show veterans who told me over their limp sandwiches how the change in schedule had spoilt their day.

Fish and chips are staple fare. Belly not bursting yet? The No 1 fish and chip shop also sells ice cream.  

No 1 Fish and Chips, Cromer

Windbreaks are de rigueur. Somewhere not far away, there’s usually a man with a knotted hankie protecting his bald pate. 

windbreak

Very few UK towns or villages have no war memorial.  This one’s in Burnham Market.

War Memorial, Burnham Market, Norfolk

A select few sport decorative village signs. There are more of these in Norfolk than in any other county, but Suffolk comes a close second.

Freckenham, Suffolk

Some have pink-washed houses (the colour’s less pretty when you realise it’s from pig’s blood). 

pink washed house, Swaffham Prior

And pubs complete with ornamental signs and wonky walls. 

Red Lion pub, Swaffham Prior

We caught a traction engine idling outside this one. 

The White Swan, Stow cum Quy

Sunset in late August comes all too soon, so it was time for one last bit of Englishness.  

chicken tikka masala, Saffron Brasserie, Cambridge

I know. Chicken tikka masala was probably invented in Glasgow. It may no longer be the UK’s favourite dish, but it’s the perfect end to a nostalgic day. 

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PS You might enjoy more quintessential Britishness on the Romaniacs blog.

Easy tweet: How English can a Bank Holiday get? http://wp.me/p3uiuG-13S a romantic look back with @DrCarolCooper 

As Rare as Rocking-Horse Manure

The new garden, about the size of a postage stamp, looked forlorn. This time of year, everyone else’s garden is already a riot of colour. Our soil is so poor, this is about all we can grow.

recycling

But then two students gave me an idea. As they walked past the English faculty, I heard one of them moan about having to ‘dump his shit before Michaelmas.’

The other one nodded encouragingly, and agreed he would dump all his shit too, man.

I know what Michaelmas is. It’s the name of the academic term that starts in early October and ends before Christmas. I wasn’t so sure what kind of shit they meant, but it got me thinking.

horse manure

That’s just the thing for improving garden soil.

But have you any idea how hard it is to find when you actually want some? There’s never any shortage of bullshit. The equine variety is another matter.

When I was at medical school, any really rare condition would be described as ‘rocking-horse manure. I never appreciated that the real thing could be equally challenging to track down.

Somewhere in Norfolk I’d spotted a sign that said HOSS SHIT, but Norfolk is a long way from anywhere. Except maybe Suffolk.

Lo and behold, this sign was a lot nearer home, and had more conventional spelling.

horse shit for sale

We stopped the car. Bingo, I thought. There was even a visible guarantee of quality.

horse in paddock

We knocked on doors, rang on bells, and went round the back of the outbuildings. Nobody was in.

So at the weekend we visited Wimpole Hall, a National Trust estate with a mansion and a working farm.  There was cow shit galore, a lot of it still on the actual cows.  There was also an amorous bull in a pen with several cows, which prompted a toddler to ask, ‘What are they doing, Mummy?’

‘Good question,’ said the mother as she wheeled the buggy away.

Sheep shit and pig shit too, but surprisingly little horse shit, certainly none for sale in the twee gift shop, complete with gingham ribbon like everything else. I think the National Trust missed a trick there.

There are substitutes, obviously. Some say cow shit is as good if not better. Would cat poo fit the bill? We have our own little factory, supplemented by presents from guests who come over the wall at night.

cat

If you’re wondering, the human stuff won’t do. Although my mother, ever the eccentric, used to tell me to put dirty nappies on the compost heap. Don’t worry. I wasn’t a very obedient daughter.

If you think you can collect horse manure fresh, think again. For garden use, horse manure needs to be well-rotted. That’s why I haven’t been round the riding schools and livery stables with an extra-large dog-poop bag.

You can get anything on eBay, right?  I checked this out. You can get horse manure for about £1 a bag. The snag is that you have to collect it from Scotland.

The solution was surprisingly simple.  I should have thought about it sooner.  Yep, the garden centre. Go ahead.

calf by the river

Call me a silly little cow.