Thursday, June 01, 2006
First stop was in Beccles, a tiny little quaint town about ten miles inland from Lowestoft, where we decided to hunt down some lunch. Beccles has only just heard of the *wheel*, never mind wheelchair access, so it was a very slow stick-shuffle to a pub/hotel/restaurant where we sat down for a meal in one of the quieter rooms, the "Library" room.
At least it was quiet until a family came in - mum, dad, grandad and two little boys aged about eight. WHY they had to invade the quiet room I don't know, but while the adults drank and chatted, the boys yelled and swore and climbed on the furniture and ran round the room and fought with each other... I think if we hadn't already ordered and paid for our meals at the bar and were waiting for them to come to our table in the Library Room, we would have gone and sat in the main restaurant, where the kids were under control, if not just got back in the car and carried on to a McDonalds drive-thru or something. I don't believe children should be "seen and not heard", but there's nothing wrong with having them sit properly at a table, including them in a conversation, telling them off for misbehaving and so on.
Somewhat frazzled, we got back to the car and put a nice CD on. Usually I don't much like having music on, but in the car it's different - there's going to be noise anyway so it may as well be good noise. I dozed here and there until we started to approach Billingford, where I saw the signs saying "MILL OPEN".
Wide awake. We'd stopped to photograph the mill before on this journey but the idea of it being open was appealing. The mill came into sight and the sails were going round! A quick consultation with Steve and we decided that yes, we were definitely stopping off to see what was what.
Turns out the mill is looked after by volunteers and opened to schools on request, and to the public about six days a year. We were pretty lucky to have happened to be driving by on a day when not only was it open, but there was wind enough for it to be going round. Entry and a full guided tour, right up to the top and all around, was the princely sum of two pounds per person which we were more than happy to pay.
Safety was a big consideration though. Obviously anyone going up the mill does so at their own risk. It's a very old building and it doesn't conform with health and safety standards. Nor does it have a lift. But this isn't lunch, this is a rare opportunity to see inside a working windmill! This is worth taking a limited risk and overdoing it for!
In the end we worked out the following: I left my stick and my bag downstairs and Steve took the camera in his pocket. We would go up the stairs last of our tiny group - first me, then Steve who would support me, um, from behind. At the top of each set of steps I would crawl away from the hatch so Steve could come up. For going down steps, the rest of the group would go down, then Steve, then me, with Steve putting my feet in position on each step from below so that I couldn't lose my footing, and then finally our guide.
Incidentally, the sails were stopped as we left (5pm, closing) and they have two stopping positions - St Andrew's Cross (pictured) and St Georges (I'm sure you can figure it out). The guide told us that in the days when there were mills all over the countryside, the mills would use those positions to spread an informal communication up and down the region that the Customs and Excise people were on the way, and to hide up any contraband.
If you click on the picture, you'll go to my flickr stream and can see all the still photos I took describing the mill. I took some videos too. But actually doing it - the dust, the smells, the clanking, the being in the curved rooms and so on - it was indescribable.
It also seemed to really please the volunteers that I was so chuffed :)
And now I'm in Leamington for a little holiday with Steve. He's working Tuesday-Friday, and then on Saturday we're off to Manchester, to a nice hotel with a big bed and fluffy pillows and a swimming pool and so on, and we're turning off the phone and he has NO WORK and it'll be great.
at 2:49 pm