Friday, 12 September 2014

Wedding Presence - Part 1

Field of cabbages in very flat landscape
South Lincolnshire, August 2014 (Photo credit: Mr M)
Two Lolas and a Mr M have each produced a contribution towards the record of the Wedding Presence Camping Event that took place a few weeks ago. The majority is my account (in black), Lola II (in red) has contributed mostly food-related items, and Mr M (in blue) has given me his insightful observations and learning points, and all the photos in this blog post.

Introduction (by Lola II)

I love camping. I asked Lola I why she loves camping and she says it's waking up in the morning and looking out of the tent at ground level, smelling the grass and the dew and the outdoors. I love all that and I also love cooking and eating outdoors. On this trip, I took it upon myself to be Head Chef. Rather than have a Sous Chef, I had Washeruper and RemindMeHowToUseTheGasStove glamorous assistants, both of whom did a very good job of eating everything I produced.

Mr M and I have been building up our camping equipment to the point where this was going to be our first opportunity to put it all into use. So we insisted that, apart from Lola's tent and bedding, we would bring everything with us. We were also trying out our NEW TENT, a wedding gift from a Seattle uncle and aunt. The advantages over our other ones are a) it's waterproof and our bedding doesn't touch the side and get wet, b) we have a vestibule that allows us to store all manner of things so we don’t have to get clothes out of the car in the morning and, c) our vestibule gives us comfortable shelter in times of rain when it's too early to go to bed, too late to go anywhere and too uncomfortable to sit in the car.

My, what a wonderful time we had. Mind you, I've never yet been disappointed on a trip with Lola I, so I had no fear that this would be anything but a four night trip of mucking about and excitement.

Observations and Learning Points from a weekend in Lincolnshire (with trips into Norfolk and Cambridgeshire) (by Mr M)

Firstly ... and this has to be said .. Lincolnshire is incredibly flat ... and by flat I mean so mind numbingly flat that you would be able to see the curvature of the earth if there was anywhere higher than a hedge to view it from.

Secondly, and sorry to repeat myself, but Norfolk and north Cambridgeshire are also spirit level and spirit crushingly flat.

Having said all that, I should now probably mention all the things we did to distract us from the lack of hills and vantage points. However, as this is an educational blog, I've decided to focus on things learnt from the weekend and one piece of commentary.

Introduction (Lola I)

I reached the campsite pretty early, because I finish work early on a Friday. It was among fields, in the pancake-flat landscape of south Lincolnshire where the fields stretch away to the horizon and it seems as though 90% of the world is sky. The site was surrounded on all sides by 50-foot Leylandii hedges, providing shelter from the strong winds that blew almost continuously. The hedges also provided housing for flocks of pigeons, whose cu-coo-cu calling seemed very loud, along with a lot of flapping. This aside, the only fault with the campsite was the lack of a pub within walking distance. The ground was flat and soft, the shower was hot, the owners friendly and helpful and there was a fridge/freezer. They even sell blackberry jam - I await Mr M's verdict.

Having erected my tent with its back to the hedge, I realised that it would make more sense if my tent and Lola II and Mr M's tent faced one another, side on to the hedge, so I took the tent down and put it up again. By this time there had been a squall of rain, and I was tired, so instead of foraging for supper I sat in the car reading. It was dark by the time Lola II and Mr M arrived with their brand new tent, and they coped pretty well putting it up for the first time, although it needed minor adjustments later.
Learning Point 1: Don't rely on satnav and mobile data or even phone service when visiting the Wash area as there are no hills to put antennas on.

Learning Point 2: it was probably naive to expect a tent called "2 second" to be put up in 2 seconds. Fortunately, the tent only took about 15 minutes albeit in the dark and for the first time.
Oh, and I mustn’t forget dinner on the night we arrived. Mr M and I got to the campsite quite late and so dinner was a pot noodle each and a couple of bags of crisps, purchased from the campsite shop. A real success, since two out of three were reduced to £1 because they were out of date.

Day 1

We started the day with eggs, mushrooms and tomatoes courtesy of Lola II, and then off to visit Boston, Lincs. We visited the tourist information office which was in the Guildhall and included a museum - I learned that Boston was the home of the religious dissidents who became the Pilgrim Fathers - but it was lunchtime, and Mr M wanted to sample typical Lincolnshire fare in the form of sausages and plum bread. We were welcomed at the restaurant although told very clearly what we were and weren't allowed to do in the way of ordering - no sharing, we had to have a meal each. That's just the way things are done in that establishment.
Learning Point 3: Lincolnshire plum bread and Lincolnshire sausages are excellent but you have to get your own sausages and can't try your wife's, as in Boston they "don't share dishes round here."
Inside Boston Minster, August 2014 (Photo credit: Mr M)
It is not a particularly affluent area of the country, and we found prices to be very reasonable, not just for food but also household items. We did a bit of standard tourism too, visiting the main church (known as The Stump) and Mr M even climbed the tower to see if he could see any hills - he was rather disturbed by the flat landscape throughout the holiday. There was a wedding about to get under way, and we also noted that the majority of the attending ladies had made pretty poor choices when it came to dressing up. Maybe this is not typical of the local ladies in general, but it was striking in that party. We finished our visit to Boston with a short walk along the river, where we were briefly accosted by a man asking us to attest to witnessing him being assaulted by some youths, despite the fact that we had witnessed nothing at all. It was a strange sort of a day.
Commentary: Boston is famous for two things; Several of the 'Founding Fathers' aboard the Mayflower were from Boston (hence it giving its name to the American city) and, more recently if you're a Daily Hate Mail reader, Boston has a Polish population of at least 99% (Daily Express figures). While we saw some gravestone like markers of emigrants to the new world, there wasn't much else marking their escape from religious freedom (and yes I mean 'from' as they were actually escaping a fairly liberal society religion wise, and wanted to set up a strict Puritan community with no freedoms).

On the immigrant front, there does appear to be a large Eastern European population by both Mr M measures - number of people you hear speaking Polish/Latvian and Lithuanian etc, and my probably more accurate measure, how many shops there are catering to Eastern European needs. Interestingly, the latter were concentrated in a different part of town from the local shops and seemed to indicate that what the community misses from home are grocery stores selling pickled herring etc and sunbed salons.
Learning Point 4: There are excellent views of fields and, well, more fields from "the Boston stump" aka the tower of Boston Minster. Despite the brilliant views of the area and confirmation that Lincolnshire is as flat as a can of lemonade which has been open a week, I felt a bit short changed as there we're only 198 steps whereas the warning at the foot of the stairs had claimed there were 'over 200 steps'.
Boston 'Stump', August 2014 (Photo credit: Mr M)
Even though the weekend was supposed to be my present to the happy couple, I had failed to bring enough cash to pay the campsite fees and even had to borrow tent pegs from Mr M and Lola II. I had brought minimal food and not enough teabags, and done no research into local activities beyond searching for sushi restaurants (there are none). However, Day 1 finished with a gala dinner catered by Lola II and the successful camping stove. She had brought all the ingredients for chicken stew (it's probably got a posher name) followed by spiced hot chocolate, and we dined in style. Not only this, but I was also presented with a birthday present of a flight in a glider on the following day, courtesy of a local flying club. I spent the rest of the evening and next morning humming "She flies like a bird in the sky-y-y..."
Even though this trip was our Presence from Lola I, I wanted to celebrate her birthday-with-an-0-on-the-end by producing a gourmet dinner. We had an aperitif of homemade blackberry gin a la Mr M. My two camping colleagues then had a little snooze whilst I cooked Moroccan lemon chicken with couscous. This was then followed by a luxurious hot chocolate dessert.

The good thing about camping is that bowls and plates tend to be smaller than everyday ones and so portion sizes aren't excessive. Cleverly, by having Mr M with us we were able to take advantage of the fact that he didn't want his full share of hot chocolate and so us two Lolas were forced to finish it off for him. I always knew he was a good find. Also it's good practice to minimise washing up.
To be continued...

Lola II cooking a la campsite
(Photo credit: Mr M)

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