Well this week I faced the joys of a long distance car trip. Is there any other sort when you’re leaving Cornwall but as I was headed for Norfolk it was quite a stretch, 400 miles in fact. Like all journeys it started with lots of familiar landscape that seemed to make it feel as though you weren’t actually getting anywhere, until we get to Exeter the route is identical for any journey that involves leaving Cornwall and familiarity breeds boredom. I know some people bemoan the advent of electronic gizmos and hanker for the days of eye spy but eye spy can only last for about 30 minutes by the most Enid Blyton of families. For the more Simpsons type of family eye spy usually degenerates into accusations of cheating and tortuous rules after 10 minutes. I’m sure I’m not the only person to be amazed by the convoluted rules that siblings will suddenly invent to ensure that their brother fails to win his round. So it is with great joy that I load up their devices with story books, films, music and games and then listen to Radio 4 in peace and quiet as the car steadily chews up the miles.
We did of course play the odd game of fives, car cricket and eye spy. The occasional diversions were supplied by other road users and oddities in the countryside. For a while we were entertained by a stunt plane that was practising loop the loops, dives and backwards flips, he was so impressive that I’m amazed that the M4 wasn’t littered with cars that had all run into each other as the drivers gazed at the skies rather than the tarmac ahead. As we moved onto the M25 we kept an eye out for Windsor Castle, as soon as we spot it we know that we are on the last leg of the journey so it’s always a great moment. The M11 provides two tunnels with which to hold our breath and then we are onto the A11.
Travelling to Norfolk is like Cornwall in many ways. The motorway peters out and suddenly you are welcomed by empty duel carriage ways (I’m not including Saturdays) and the world seems to drop away from you. You pass through Suffolk or Devon and suddenly hit a single lane carriage way, invariably this is crowded and you wonder where all the traffic has come from. The stretch in Suffolk goes on for many, many miles and is long and straight; invariably people crash their cars, tempted by high speed overtaking and so the road network grinds to a halt as it cuts through MOD land and there’s no left or right turn. Thankfully we pass along the stretch unhindered by delays and reach Norfolk with ease. Like Cornwall, Norfolk is not on the way to anywhere, no one passes through Norfolk on their journey to somewhere else and so it has that sleepy not bothered air that Cornwall has. Unlike Cornwall you can actually see Norfolk. Gone are the steep banks on either side of the road, the tree lined tunnels the reinforced hedges, instead the road drifts over to sandy curbs sown with wild poppies that spill onto the huge flat fields that stretch away to the ever present sky laid out in all its glory. I know I’m waxing lyrical but I do miss the sky here in Cornwall.
The return journey had everything that we had missed on the trip up, the fights, the hot weather, the many traffic jams but it also had the sense of excitement as we ticked off the Tavistock turning, Gilbert the Goblins house, the hedgehog bridge and finally our own road and Steve and Harry waiting with huge grins. Journeys are about the travelling, the destination but most importantly about coming home at the end.