I love living in the countryside. There is warm sense of satisfaction in seeing tractors parked in the Co-op car park, of hearing cows mooing in a nearby field early in the morning, of the pungent smell of fresh manure wafting from the farm down the road, of knowing that rush hour traffic consists of maybe 5 cars. However, it’s not entirely complete. There are a few things missing. The friends we’d made in Colchester.
So this weekend we made the journey to Essex, the car packed with all sorts of bits and pieces, mostly for the baby, to stay a couple of nights with some dear friends of ours who are still in Colchester. Saturday was indeed the highlight for me. We saw Phil and Jenny in the morning, we spent the afternoon in Wivenhoe with Phill and Phil and Anne-Marie and Sarah, and watched Doctor Who in the evening. That in itself would ordinarily be enough, but in honour of this being our first visit to East Anglia with our baby, and having not seen people in yonks, Anne-Marie decided to make the barbecue one to remember for all time.
The fire was lit about 2pm or so, and once we had all arrived and the fire had settled in Mr Phill started the first round of cooking. As each round was completed, another load of food was put on the heat. There were sausages, burgers, buns for aforementioned items, skewers (meaty and veggie), chicken pieces, potato wedges, salad, salmon, Pringles, an assortment of drinks, and more. A veritable feast. About half way through I started to feel full and thought I’d probably have to stop eating. So I had another sausage in a bun. Then I thought “actually there was quite a lot of bread in that bun, maybe I’ve overdone it”. So I had another potato wedge or two and polished off my glass of wine. Then there was a mad dash for the last cheesy garlic mushroom, which Phil and I shared. By now I had eaten far more than my fill of everything, but my stomach had stopped complaining. I guessed it had somehow found more space somewhere, like the stomach equivalent of an overflow car park. So when the bananas with melted chocolate and marshmallows were ready I gladly ate one of those too.
Then we headed off to Phill and Phil’s house to watch Doctor Who. And eat pudding. Naturally. So I had a nice big slice of chocolate brownie, a fairy cake, and a generous slice of chocolate torte. Once Doctor Who was finished, and feeling rather replete, I decided to get an early night and went off to bed.
The following morning I had breakfast. I normally have a bowl of cereal and a small glass of orange juice. And indeed that’s what I had that morning. Plus a cup of tea. And a slice of toast. It wasn’t until I was driving to church that my stomach started complaining. Never mind, I thought, I’ll just grin and bear it. So I grinned and bore it. At lunchtime we went to a pub in Wivenhoe and I ordered a Sunday Roast. A couple of mouthfuls in, and it all got a little too much for my poor stomach to cope with. I hardly ate much of that meal at all in the end.
We went back to the girls’ house afterwards to relax a bit before heading home to Somerset, and I had a quick snooze on the sofa. When I got up to leave, my stomach really wasn’t feeling right. I thought then that the best, safest option would actually be to impose on our friends just a little longer and stay another night, to get plenty of rest and head back on Monday instead. Yes, definitely the best option. So we piled into the car and headed back to Somerset.
Halfway round the M25 we stopped at some services. I was feeling really tired, so Ellie took Samuel inside to feed him while I slept in the car for a bit. About an hour later I resurfaced and met Ellie inside. The greeting was short-lived though, as my wandering in the direction of the toilets turned into a run. Yes, dear listeners (and feel free to stop reading at this point if you’re so inclined), I was sick. And, as is often the case, I actually felt better for it. As Shrek so eloquently described it, “better out than in, I always say”.
The rest of the journey back was long and tiring. It was undoubtedly God’s strength keeping me going, because I wasn’t really in any fit state to be driving. I guess my determination was a combination of male pride and family pride. As a man, I didn’t want to let my ailments beat me. As a husband and father, I felt it my duty and responsibility to get my family home. The result was an exhausting drive and a chronically aching back. I slept well that night, thanks to some painkillers, but I’m still a little weak, I’m not really able to eat much, and my back is still in some discomfort.
The cause of the illness, as far as we can work out, was an excessive intake of meat, which my stomach apparently didn’t know what to do with. Ah well, that’ll teach me.