Next up in our summer jaunt was Essex, in the guise of Colchester, the reason for which should, hopefully, be reasonably clear from the title! Another hassle free trip of around 60 miles from Cambridgeshire, heading south on the M11, then east on the A120 at Stanstead, hopping on the A12 for a short while before turning off for the site, conveniently nestled just off the roundabout. Our bright red tug Rosie – although not as bright as she could be if someone could be arsed to clean her – returned another excellent 31 mpg, belying her hundred plus thousand miles. Of course being naturally erm, careful, I would always like more but have to remember that our caravan is no lightweight, although at least this time of year there’s no poncey long leather coats and associated garb weighing her down.
We’d checked the site out before – when visiting my cousin just before Christmas – and whilst it was inevitably going to be a bit noisy given it’s location, it was that which made it ideal. In fact even more so than we had imagined.
Caravanning has been good for many things for us, but none more so than hooking up again with my cousin who is my closest – and almost only - family. There’s about 13 years between us and has always been at least 60 or so miles. He got married and had kids and I well, didn’t. Not the kids bit anyway! We did used to meet up but mostly at all too frequent funerals and we lost our Mum’s within six months of one another.
It was a post on Facebook that came to the attention of one of Andy’s girls that we were staying in the ‘van, not to far away in Weeley and we met up with my cousin Andy and his wife Janet for a meal. Wind forward a year or so and they’ve bought a caravan and we’re now meeting up a regular intervals and finding that we have more and more in common.
Anyway, back to the weekend. There was to be a fellas pre wedding briefing – i.e something to eat and a few beers -on the Friday night which we were invited to. Handily it was only a short walk from the campsite to the pub and as well as my cousin, grandson Braydon, his youngest daughters partner Tim and groom Derek we got to meet for the first time Derek’s brother and best man Sean, Dad Henry and 2nd cousin Aaron. It was a great evening – the grog and grub were good, the conversation flowed and hopefully any pre-match nerves were steadied.
A fry up was a necessity Saturday morning but at least we had nowt else to do until the ceremony at two, so a nice late morning snooze ensued until it was time to get scrubbed up and ready. Unusually for me I’d eschewed the chance to get dressed up in a suit, mainly because it was unlikely that any of ‘em would fit, because, as we all know, clothes tend to shrink over the years. Knowing that I always put on a few pounds when away, I’d packed the shirt most likely to still fit but even that was depressingly tight. Nevertheless we emerged reasonably smart and headed off up the A12 in the direction of the church and, beforehand, a pub for a quick pint.
The church at Stratford St Mary over the border in Suffolk was where my cousin got married some 30 years ago although our most recent visit was for Braydon’s Christening around 10 years ago. One of the few occasions we met that wasn’t for a funeral.
We arrived at the church before the scheduled 2pm kick off, but soon had to scuttle inside and take our seats as the bride had had the temerity to actually arrive on time. Andy of course accompanied Sarah in and of course she looked lovely as did the bridesmaids. The men looked very smart in their morning suits too.
The ceremony was lovely – it felt natural and ‘right’ not a carefully staged show. The choice of hymns took me back to my childhood – school assembly was probably the last time I sung them – or at least mouthed the words!
With the photo’s taken in the church yard it was time to hot foot it back to Colchester for the reception – to be held at a golf club, again not too far from our site. A glass of bubbly was presented on arrival which we gratefully accepted but were first at the bar seeking out a pint. No real ale sadly but the keg IPA would do.
With more photo’s taken by the official snapper it was time to sit down for the reception – and what a cracking job the golf club had done in dressing the venue – it looked stunning.
The all important speeches had been originally scheduled before the meal – or so we thought, but we were going to get our feed first. Whether this was to allow the speakers more time to ingest some more Dutch courage I couldn’t possibly say, however my belly was extremely grateful. The meal – a hog roast – was delicious and I welcomed the offer of seconds, although the already overburdened buttons on my shirt didn’t!
It was finally time for the speeches. My cousin, not showing a hint of nerves opened the show with a largely adlibbed speech although clearly the rehearsal – such as it was – in the pub the night before – helped no end!
There is a tradition, or protocol – well out of date - that says children follow marriage, not the other way around. That was at one time the only acceptable order, but life with all the blows it can dispense can get in the way of such things, knocking you down many times on the way. Thus it was Sarah’s 10 year old son Braydon who stole the show and gave an entertaining and very moving speech about now them being a family that brought a tear to many an eye in the room including mine. It was a moment I will remember for a long long while.
With a pause in proceedings after the speeches, there was only one option – the driving range next door! Myself and Trev went with Tim whose Dad was soon to join us. Tim’s phone was soon ringing with the news that the cake was about to be cut but before we knew it, the new Husband & Wife had arrived to join us! It was great fun – one of those impromptu things and personally, though I haven't played for years, have never ever hit a golf ball better. Clearly all that lubrication in the guise of gassy IPA paid had off.
Following the cutting of the cake it was time for the first dance before everyone had a chance to join in. For once I kept well clear but there was plenty on the dance floor acquitting themselves far better than I could have done. The evening buffet came out a short while later and that was the focus of my attention much to my straining shirts chagrin.
After the buffet energy levels began to seriously flag and it was time to say goodbye. On the way home we reflected on what a wonderful day it had been and how much I had enjoyed reconnecting with my family.
Last summer in France was about bread – lots and lots of it. It became an addiction. This year seems to be about bacon – well pork at least. With reserves in Patsy’s fridge at an all time low – i.e. zero – we went in search of a fry up and a Harvester just up the road duly provided. Our reserves having been recharged it was now Rosie’s turn with a fill of diesel and we took the opportunity to restock the fridge as well. You can guess what with, but some beef and chicken made it in along side the various regions of Pinky & Perky.
Dinner was at Andy & Janet’s with Jan producing another truly fine roast dinner. We had the inevitable de-brief about the wedding and all agreed what a great day it was and we mused about when their other daughter – Amanda - was likely to tie the knot with Tim. Somewhere exotic had been mooted by them and the four of us agreed that would be fine as long as there’s a caravan site nearby!
Before we left Andy produced some ‘sides’ that he had purchased to attach to the pull out canopy on his caravan. Said canopy suffered some storm damage in the spring and is now awaiting it’s fate in his back garden. We have the same canopy Andy said we could have them. Never ones to turn down a freebee, we happily accepted them and they’ve already been put to use at our current site. Thanks once again Andy.
And our weekend in Colchester and Essex was over, but what a great weekend it was. The good news is that we will be meeting up with Andy & Janet again at our penultimate site of the summer, down in Suffolk in just over a week.
One last thing – the photo’s are not the best. I decided to use my cheap and cheerful phone rather than lug the DSLR about and regretted it as soon as I started snapping. Still, some photo’s are better than none, although I didn’t manage to get every family member. Trev has also put together a slide show with a selection of photos from us and others that you can view HERE. I hope you enjoy.
Next up, Norfolk…..