As we’re away for a few days I’m converting to travelogue mode for a few days.
It’s been a pleasant day today, with the sun being bright and warm as we drove through Cambridgeshire. By the time we reached Suffolk it was genuine shirt sleeve weather.
We’d started later than I intended but the A1 was relatively uncluttered and we made good progress until we passed Peterborough and took the A14. By the time we reached Huntingdon the traffic was already slow, and things really took a turn for the worse a short while later, as the queue slowed to a crawl and several white vans flung themselves into my path in order to overtake a funeral cortège.
I hadn’t really planned where to break the journey but decided on Thetford – I haven’t been there since the late 70s/early 80s and thought, after looking it up on the web, that it merited another visit. The earlier visits, to see a friend who moved there for work, seemed to revolve around spartan pubs and grim takeaways.
It has changed over the years, they are building an ambitious new complex by the river, and the town generally looks brighter. Some of the pubs have been painted and a few new food types have crept in (chilli dogs and Lebanese) – but I managed to avoid the temptation to test any of them out.
It’s a struggle for small towns these days so it’s good to see some optimism and an absence of empty shops.
The charity shops have multiplied over the years, as they have everywhere, and there’s a Polish grocer and a Bureau de Change, which I’ve seen before but not in a town so small. It’s not the first time there’s been an infusion of foreign culture into Thetford. The Vikings gave the town a tough time in the 900s and 10,000 Londoners arrived from the 1950s onwards. I don’t want to offend either Scandinavians or Londoners, but I’m not sure which I’d rather have.
Thetford has three museums, we tried to visit the Dads Army Museum but it isn’t open until next Saturday. Poor planning on my part. Jones’s lorry is exhibited in another museum in town and there is a J. Jones butcher in town – offering Walmington sausages and chilli dogs. What with one thing and another (including looking in charity shops and taking pictures of the Tom Paine statue and St Mary the Less we ran out of time.
In case you were wondering, as I did, why the Tom Paine statue is gilded, it is because Napoleon said that every city in the universe should have a golden statue of him.