Sunday, February 10, 2008

A visit to Ely

We are in Cambridge with Taffa and Gareth at the moment. We came down on Friday evening, cleverly avoiding all the chaos on the roads and making quite remarkably good time, given that we left after work on a Friday and a Friday which happened to be the start of half term for most local education authorities (oddly, not Derbyshire which is next week).

Yesterday dawned sunny and surprisingly mild to say that it is still quite early in February. So we wandered into town and hit the market. The seafood stall was there!!!!!!! I've got two pints of shrimps, four langoustines, two large crevettes and 300g of scallops loitering in the bottom of Taffa's fridge. Plus I have two HUGE loaves of bread and this week's veg in the car. And we had Chelsea buns and croissants and yummy things for breakfast from the baker's stall. I've bought a little vase from the arts and craft market and we generally had a good potter about.

So. What to do for the afternoon. I would dearly like to go to Flag Fen, which is a Bronze Age centre, but that's closed until March. We considered going to Wicken Fen, which is a wildlife centre and parklands - but we're not sure if it was open. The website gave opening hours for 1/11-31/1 and then from 11/2-1/3. We could, of course, have driven past to see but it's quite close to Ely and The Builder and I have never been to Ely. We decided to go there instead and save the outside things up for the summer.

The centre of Ely is *lovely*. First things first, though - lunch. No one knew anything about the pubs in Ely so we picked one at random. If you should ever find yourself in or even near Ely you must, you simply must have lunch in the King's Arms. The food is freshly prepared, freshly cooked and NOT covered in huge clomps of salt. Taffa, The Builder and I had proper, real Whitby scampi. Gaz had meltingly soft and tasty gammon. It was just lovely. Taffa, The Builder and I shared a bottle of pinot grigio. Gaz had a pint of Black Sheep. Then we set off to explore.

We very much enjoyed our visit to Oliver Cromwell in his house near the cathedral. It's a lovely building. The kitchen (which I thought was beautiful) is 12th century in parts. All the doors are tiny - even Gaz and I didn't fit under some of them without ducking. One of the rooms has wooden swords and hobby horses and real metal helmets and cloaks and dresses and things dotted about. The Builder shouted at me for playing with them :-( He had forgotten that the woman who sold us the tickets had said there was a dress up room if we wanted to play!

Then we went to the Ely and Fen museum in the old gaol. That was quite fun too - though not as much fun as dressing up as a roundhead soldier and skewering The Builder with a sword!

We decided not to stick our heads into the cathedral. I didn't want to pay £5 each just for a quick look - and for £12 you get to inspect the cathedral, the tower, the stained glass museum and have a cup of tea in the refectory. We'll keep that for another day. On the way back to the car, Gaz noted that the Edinburgh Woollen Mill was having a sale. I don't ordinarily buy my clothes in the EWM, but they had a lovely shirt and jumper and a pair of purple trousers that just seemed to cast themselves into my hands. The Builder bought them for me. My wallet, alas, was back at the house in my coat pocket!

And then we trundled back to Cambridge, ready for dinner in Fen Ditton at the Crown. We hadn't booked and it was very busy. So we sat in the bar with a bottle of wine and waited for a table to become available. We've been to the Crown before for a pint on a river walk and noted the menu and had it on our list of places to try. And it was well worth the wait. The food was lovely (slow roasted lamb shoulder for Taffa and me; sirloin steak for Gaz and The Builder, lovely mash and vegetables all round). And the waiter provided immense entertainment by tripping up the stairs when clearing another table and showering us in broken plates, bowls and other bits of crockery. Funnily enough, the last time we were there, there was entertainment of an emergency nature when one of the radiators burst. I wonder if they do this sort of thing all the time?

My step meter (well, Lindsey's step meter - she left it here last August and I've been using it) has committed suicide :-( It jumped off the band of my trousers and leapt into one of the toilets at work (before I had used the toilet!). I fished it out, but it was all drowned and soggy and blank screened. I think it was protesting about the number of stairs it was having to count now that I have moved permanently down to the Level 2 office and the folks from the Level 3 office have temporarily moved up to Level 6 while the burst pipe on the Level 3 ceiling is repaired. I won't use the lifts. They are inclined to eat the students. So far they have not eaten me - but you never know!

Right. The Builder and I are shortly off to London. Taffa and Gaz are off to work in Forbidden Planet, where Tabitha is the shop manager and Gaz works sometimes as a casual. He's got a job in a new school starting after Easter. Instead of being an hour's drive away, it's a mere ten minute walk away. He's rather looking forward to that!

The sun is shining. The sky is shiny blue. It's cold and frosty. A lovely day for a trip to the British Museum. More anon!
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