Thursday, 2 June 2016

Over here

Norfolk must await my full return to fitness! I finished with the painkilling medication for my torn left shoulder muscle and aching left arm some days ago, but the discomfort persists, and although things are definitely improving, I won't be back to normal in time for the original departure day on Monday, just three days hence.

If I disregarded what my body is saying to me, I'd be attempting too much. I'd struggle to turn the caravan around on my drive; and then there'd be all the loading up; and of course the driving, the setting-up at my first destination near Stamford...it all requires energy and a physical capability that I haven't got at the moment.

I'm tired too: I haven't slept really well for almost two weeks now, and I snatch my sleep at night in the recliner in my lounge. It's sort of comfortable, but it's not ideal. I tend to sleep in three- or four-hour bursts that don't do a lot for me - although on the whole I'm sleeping better now than I did a few days back. I long for the time when I can lie in my bed and drop off without my left arm nagging at me. It's the same arm that started to hurt last autumn, after I did too much PC-keyboard work. It'll pass, as it did before, but not in time for a Monday departure.

There are however upsides to a delay in getting off. I can fit in meetups with people whom I have rather neglected since last Christmas. And it spreads out my financial commitments, helping me to budget better. I may get a decent amount of pension income, but I still can't afford to pay out too much in too short a time.

It was quite easy to alter my Caravan Club bookings, and - as I was giving ample notice - there was no penalty for doing so. That's one of the things I really appreciate about online booking with an outfit like the Caravan Club. You can book up something, then alter it if you need to. This allows for great flexibility in planning and then replanning a caravan holiday. Mind you, although there is no fuss about cancelling a booking - if you adhere to the rule about proper notice, that is - it's first come, first served with site pitches. So you need to check availability of pitches at your selected site before scrapping any bookings already made. In fact it pays to book quite a long way ahead.

It'll be north-west Norfolk, by the way. I'm staying on the Club's Sandringham Estate site, which is hardly a mile away from the Royal Residence. But I intend to unwind by driving along the almost-empty lanes of the hinterland, and walking the lonely beaches between Burnham Overy Staithe and Wells-next-the-Sea. There are a few places I haven't seen before, such as the Abbey at Little Walsingham, and the Priory at Castle Acre.

Ah, Castle Acre! There's a good pub there, The Ostrich. M--- and I ate there one evening. It was the end of a warm sunny day in September 1995, and the red-brick pub looked most inviting:


Next to the door was a magnificent Greene King plaque:


Well, we dined so well that we returned two nights later. But it was very, very different! It was so changed - it looked odd and dated. We wondered whether it had mysteriously changed hands, with unknown consequences for the meal we were looking forward to:


Cautiously entering, we found it transformed. It was still possible to have a drink, but the locals told us that they were banned from the place for the next week or so. In fact everyone in the village was banned. Oh, really? Why was that, then?

Then they explained. We'd walked into a film set. A company making a wartime film for TV had taken this part of the village over, pub included. Shooting was going to begin in three days' time. I made a brief note of the details, and wrote them on the back of the print once the film was developed when home again:


This is exactly the kind of stuff I'd routinely write on the back of prints in the 1990s, before I went digital. And you thought I was only now getting obsessive about captioning my photographs? Ha, it's a lifelong habit. I am a terrifically well-documented person!

As you can see, the drama was called Over Here and was about the disruptive presence of American troops brought over in the run-up to D-Day, and billeted in the country. The central story concerned a naval officer's wife who forms a doomed relationship with an educated and thoroughly nice black soldier. This was a forbidden liaison in 1944, at least in American eyes; though not nearly so much through English eyes. For her, the main issue was the attractiveness and sensitivity of this man, and the conflict of loyalties that talking with him, then seeing him, set up inside her. She did not want to be unfaithful to her absent, serious-minded husband. But her empathetic new friend represented kindness, and he became a salve for her loneliness. They both tried hard to resist, but the inevitable happened, and the consequences were rapid and explosive. For him, a brutal court-martial with a predictable verdict. For her, the sympathy of the villagers - but the devastating anger of her hastily-returning and betrayed husband. I think her black lover was shot. For her, a bleak future loomed as a high-minded middle-class wife gone wrong. It was all very powerful and thought-provoking.

Could it happen today? The fact that the man was black wouldn't matter now, but every serving man or woman who goes abroad for long periods must fear returning home to find that their partner has not been faithful to them. Betrayal still matters. It's an offence against mutual trust and respect, and a mortal blow to the relationship that was once believed in. It's human nature to err, but also human nature never to forgive. Only rare people can avoid causing harm.

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