24th August 2013
There are two Billingfords in Norfolk. We were apprised of this rather less than welcome fact when printing off directions to the hotel we had booked for the weekend in order to celebrate Don’s 80th birthday, and to his daughter Sue’s home, where festivities are to be held tomorrow. They are thirty miles apart.
Rounding Seamans Corner on the way Billingford (IP21 4HL) we encountered two rather unusual animals in the road. Two little dogs of a toy breed we could not identify trotted down the centre of the Lane. Seeking possible owners, I knocked at a cottage door. A couple with a baby answered. They were just borrowing the house from a friend for the weekend. I quipped that what would happen next would be that when they went for a walk someone would ask them for directions. After all, that always happens to strangers.
The dogs quickened their pace as we tracked them up the road. Eventually they dashed into a driveway to be greeted by a different breed of little white terrier who appeared to be giving them what for. Their owner was most relieved. They could, of course, have ended up like the terrier in ‘A Fish Called Wanda’, which would have been no funnier than I found the scene in the film.
The journey took more than five hours, mostly in pouring rain on M3 and M25 each having extensive roadworks. The rain really set in just before we joined the M25. With ten miles to go to the Dartford Tunnel, fog warnings were flashing. There was no fog, but the rain had become torrential, reducing visibility to within a few yards. This eased up a little by the time we reached the toll bucket, but returned intermittently throughout the rest of the journey.
The Horseshoes in Billingford, with its dried up hanging baskets and plastic window boxes, and weeds lining the path to the front door, looked rather in need of care and attention. The lone barman left us standing in the lounge bar whilst he served his regular drinking customers. With apologies he eventually placed a visitors book on the Daily Mail covered pool table and led us outside the front door, round a side street, and up a fire escape staircase to a group of rooms above the pub. Opening the yale-locked door at the top required a shoulder thrust. The inside of this bore a fire escape sign, and required a forceful tug after the key had been operated. Our en-suite room had been installed and kitted out sparing all expense. It was, however, clean.
Deciding against eating there we drove off to nearby Diss, where we discovered the excellent Spice Cottage, which had been kitted out sparing no expense. We enjoyed exquisite meals, and our usual Bangla and Cobra beers. I ate a tender and flavoursome Gurka lamb, cooked long and slow, flavoured to phall heat; Jackie thoroughlyenjoyed her chicken green masal. The service was friendly, efficient, and unobtrusive.
On our return to the hotel, Jackie, after her long day at the wheel, fell into bed, to find that the bulb to her bedside lamp was kaput.
To add to the delights of The Horseshoes, there was no internet signal, which is why I am posting this the following day in Starbucks in Gates Market shopping mall in Great Yarmouth.