Chapter 2 - Our First Look at Benhall and meeting Joyce

Tuesday 17th June

Today we headed north from Felixstowe, calling in at Benhall, the birthplace of Geoff's Father, George. We had been led to believe that 'Ivy Cottage' where George grew up, had been demolished some years ago to make way for new housing, so were amazed and delighted to find it still standing.

Geoff recognised it immediately from old photos we had. It is very well cared for and has a beautiful garden - it is actually divided into two homes. We were very fortunate to see someone in the yard that we could talk to. Mike Peters called to his wife, Sharon, and we were invited in for a cuppa. They had not long purchased one side of the house and were in the process of renovating. Sharon's parents had lived in the other side when she was born (in 1958), and her Dad was still there - a hearty seventy-something year old. He had been a farmer in the area for many years and remembered Granny Aslett so was able to fill us in on a few details.

We showed Mike and Sharon a few photos that we had on the computer and Sharon was very excited when she saw her Mum holding her as a baby, in one photo. The photo was a group of people waiting at Benhall for Princess Margaret to arrive. She then said that her Dad still had a copy of another photo with Princess Margaret in it, being presented with the flowers by Granny.
The photo was found after much searching and she has promised to get a copy for us. We will go back to see them again.

We wandered about Benhall for awhile and then called at the School where Granny Aslett taught for 34 years. When we introduced ourselves to a teacher on playground duty, we were taken to meet the Headmaster and taken on a tour of what was the old school and an old record book was brought out showing several entries about Granny - she apparently was a well loved and respected teacher.

We continued on towards Gt Yarmouth via Lowestoft, where we had hoped to catch up with Mike King. He was not at home so we continued on to Caister-on-Sea just North of Gt Yarmouth to see Cousin Joyce. She was surprised to see us so soon and welcomed us very warmly. We had wondered if we should book in to accommodation somewhere nearby but she was obviously expecting us to stay and had our bed ready. Joyce, at 97, is an absolute marvel. She is getting a bit frail, but she is as sharp as a tack and still cooks for herself every night. She loves to go out to dinner, knows and appreciates her wines (and chocolates) and all the good things of life. She has very good taste and likes nothing but the best.

She was all set to go out to dinner with her friend Pat so we joined them at Monet's Restaurant at Gt Yarmouth. Pat, a very kind friend and former neighbour, calls every day to see that Joyce is OK and takes her shopping and to appointments, out to dinner or whatever. As Gt Yarmouth is on the Sea and is well-known for its fishing industry, we thought we couldn't go wrong ordering seafood. Geoff ordered Chilli Crayfish Tails, expecting a couple of nice big juicy fresh crays as we know them - what arrived was a great mound of tiny little tails smaller than the little prawns we would get out of a tin, heaped on to four big slices of french bread. Joyce had ordered the Prawn Cocktail from the 'Starters' menu, as she had soup first, and it was a great pile on her plate too - she certainly wasn't expecting such a big meal.

We all had a great laugh and after I queried the 'crayfish tails', the Chef sent out the container full of 'tails' to prove that's what they were. I saw them the next day at the Supermarket, along with a great variety of tiny prawns and all sorts of other 'packaged' imported seafoods. Joyce bemoaned the fact that Monet's used to be the best Restaurant in town but had changed hands and wasn't now up to her standard!

Wednesday 18th
We were very comfortable in the upstairs bedroom of Joyce's cottage, with wide windows overlooking her lovely garden and the Golf Course beyond.

Joyce pottered about setting everything up for breakfast and we chatted the morning away. As Joyce doesn't have a washing machine I set off to find a Laundromat, with no luck, and buy in a few provisions. Washed the clothes by hand and then took them to a Dry-Cleaner/Laundry Service who agreed to 'dry' them for me.

As Joyce thought the Gardener was not coming, she asked us to re-pot a few geraniums for her so we did that and then I got to with the secateurs and trimmed some of the roses and pulled a few weeds. Joyce has a lovely garden - it must have been quite spectacular in its hey day, but, of course, she is no longer able to do any gardening. She has a gardener who comes in to mow and keep things tidy, but it is difficult to do everything that should be done. We were pleased to be able to do a few things for her.

We took Joyce for a drive to the village of Filby where there is a great view of one of 'The Norfolk Broads'. One of Joyce's former pupils, Jennifer (now a widow) owns the Filby Bridge Restaurant so we called in there for a cup of tea. Joyce was greeted with great hugs and kisses and Jennifer was obviously very excited to see her. We asked her what Joyce was like as a teacher and she assured us that she was the most popular teacher ever, and like a film star - always beautifully dressed and glamorous - everybody loved her.
The restaurant is in a lovely spot on the water's edge, (see photo in the gallery) with swans (we saw a Mother swan with four little cygnets) and ducks swimming on the water. We had a most enjoyable hour there and Jennifer would not allow us to pay for the afternoon tea.

We drove Joyce home and then went on to Lingwood to visit Tony & Barbara Grosvenor (Grosvenor being one of the lines from Jane's family). Tony had all sorts of information and maps for us to act on when we get to the Shropshire district. They, like all those we have met, were very friendly and made us feel very welcome.

Back again to Caister where Jane cooked dinner for us all - Joyce had all the ingredients out ready for her - gammon steaks, something Jane had never cooked before, and a wine and raisin sauce - and was obviously pleased to have someone else do the cooking.

Thursday 19th June

Joyce's birthday today - 97! not too many people make it to that age.
After several visitors arrived with flowers and gifts, and phone calls to wish Joyce a 'Happy Birthday', we set off to Overstrand, near Cromer (about an hour away) to visit Libby and Peter.

Libby is another cousin and since Peter has Parkinson's and hasn't been able to drive for some time, they had not been able to visit Joyce for several years.

Libby and Peter have a large house with a beautiful garden and were excited to meet us and to see Joyce again. We talked and looked at photos and then were taken for an enjoyable lunch at a nearby Garden Centre before driving back to Caister down the coast road.

It was a lovely day and Joyce was delighted to receive a beautiful flowering orchid from Libby, for her birthday.

It was a very pleasant drive. Joyce thought our 'Navigating Lady' was hilarious on our way to Libby's as it led us in a direction that she didn't know, and down an obscure lane. We actually emerged at our destination, but because we had come in a different way, Joyce didn't recognise where we were so we did a nice little tour around the headland and finally had to ask at the Post Office to find the house. We had driven past it but it was on the wrong side of the road for Joyce to recognise!

Friday 20th June

After breakfast and some gardening, we drove to Bungay to see where Aunt Win had lived. Bungay is a very pretty little village, as, indeed are all the villages in the area. Winding narrow lanes bordered by high hedges meander through the countryside from village to village. Wildflowers and poppies grow profusely along the roads. It is mindboggling as you drive past all these old buildings and realise just how old most of them are. The buildings mostly are right to the road edge, with sometimes a very narrow footpath, and old rose bushes, hanging baskets of bright geraniums and flowering creepers are everywhere, which makes for a very pretty picture.

We stopped to take photos of No 7 Flixton Road which was where Aunt Win had lived for many years but, as parking was difficult and Joyce can't walk far, we continued on our winding way to Beccles.

Joyce said as we were driving along "Oh, this is where my friend Barbara lives - I can see her gate from here." So, of course, we asked if she'd like to visit, to which she very enthusiastically answered yes. Luckily she had a driveway where we could park. Jane went in to find Barbara - through a delightful garden with ducks waddling around and the house sitting right on the riverbank. Barbara who hadn't seen Joyce for many years, was delighted so we settled Joyce in with her and we set off for a wander around the village.

Beccles is a delightful and quite busy little village and we found a nice coffee spot and bought some strawberries at the market and then got caught in the first rain since we'd been here. Only light, but enough to wet us - umbrella left in the car! Sheltered for a little while at the bus stop where we found it interesting listening to the various locals.

We drove back to Caister via Lowestoft where we were hoping to catch up with Mike King but unfortunately he was not at home.

Saturday 21st June

Slightly overcast and not such a good day weatherwise. We did a few jobs for Joyce and then, as Joyce was expecting a visit from a friend, we took off for Norwich. We were hoping to catch up with Ian & Alice Francis (son of Jane's cousin Stephen) but unfortunately they had moved from the address we had for them. It wasn't much fun driving around Norwich on a wet day, parking almost impossible, so we kept moving thinking we'd try again for Mike at Lowestoft.

On the way we called in to a huge garden centre - they were opening a new deli and restaurant and were having a food and wine tasting so we sampled lots of goodies and then had a coffee and scone - not the best we have had while here. They had an amazing array of gifts and homewares etc on show - we bought a bottle of jam and a very bright potted geranium for Joyce.

Still no luck with Mike King so we called at the next door house and left a message for him.

Joyce had the dinner all ready for us - well, she thought she had, but she had forgotten to turn on the oven! No worries - the days last so long here that you don't feel like eating as early as we do at home. Doesn't start to get dark here till well after 9pm.

Sunday 22nd June

Time for us to move on - Joyce was quite sad to see us go and we have promised to get back to see her again before returning home. This time we did manage to catch up with Mike King at Lowestoft - he had rung us as soon as he got our message from his neighbour. Spent an hour talking with Mike who had been taught by both Joyce and Alan and obviously thought the world of them both. Such a nice guy and we were very pleased that we called on him. He has been very good to Joyce since he caught up with her in recent years.