Is it friendlier in the north?

There are 209 steps up to the top of the tower of St Botolph's Church, in Boston... a step too far f

There are 209 steps up to the top of the tower of St Botolph's Church, in Boston... a step too far for Lynne. St Botolph's is thought to be the largest parish church in England. Picture: Philip Jones. - Credit:

Travelling to Boston, I felt I’d earned my Lincolnshire sausage.

‘Let’s go somewhere we’ve never been before,” I said to my husband. I could see his mind working.

“No, I mean, somewhere other than Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex or Cambridgeshire.”

We had decided to go and see my son’s touring theatre company’s production of As You Like It and, as it wasn’t visiting a venue nearby, I thought we might be adventurous and explore foreign parts.

“What about Boston?”

“They’re doing Massachusetts?”


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Boston, Lincs, doesn’t look too far away on a map. It seemed to be a fairly straight trip north, through the Fenlands, skirting The Wash. And, despite its apparent geographical proximity, neither of us had ever spent time in the county, let alone Boston.

As usual, to prevent the nosebleeds and ear popping that can occur when you travel upwards, I bought a packet of wine gums for the journey. You know you’ve hit your sixties when you buy wine gums although I’m hoping I have another 10 years to go before feeling the urge to buy Werther’s Originals.

We didn’t buy enough wine gums. It is easy to forget just how big East Anglia is and how little dual carriageway it has. It didn’t help that, eight miles from home, my husband remembered he’d forgotten the road map.

“I know exactly where it is, I left it by the front door,” he said helpfully. I waited for it to be my fault he forgot it.

We do have satellite navigation but it’s a faff to find other routes. Once it the satnav has decided which way you’re going that’s it ? irrespective of roadworks and tractors, single-track carriageways and potholes.

Is there an I Spy book of farm vehicles? If there is, I would have completed it by Tydd Gote (great name, the Anglo-Saxons were obviously big around those parts).

The satnav suggested our journey would take two hours and 40 minutes ? it was more like three hours and three packets of wine gums. We drove across the fertile flatlands, past fields of vegetables, behind trailers full of vegetables which were being pulled by tractors hurtling down the narrow roads at 10mph.

I might have mentioned it was a pity we didn’t have the road map.

Fortunately Boston, once you’re in, is a very friendly place. When I asked the woman in the newsagents where we could get lunch, she left her counter, took us outside and pointed us towards Oldrids, the town’s department store, a retailer founded 214 years ago, which makes it a notable high street survivor as well as a good place for a cod and chips lunch.

“Aren’t the people here friendly?” I said.

“Yes,” replied my husband, “it’s because we’re nearer Yorkshire.”

Coming from south of The Wash, as I do, I am unused to such easy amiability among the natives. I am used to the terse, one word answers beloved of East Anglians who do not like to overuse the English language when encountering a stranger. I am more accustomed to the way the folk of the eastern counties look at you askance when you ask directions. They look at you askance, through half-closed eyes. There seems to be an unspoken accusation that you must know the way because everyone does. We went to the play (which was fantastic) and stayed in a hotel overnight, smuggling in some snacks to sustain us until morning. I’m sure hotels don’t mind if you bring in a sandwich but it always makes me feel guilty.

Next day, breakfast included a Lincolnshire sausage ? the first time I had eaten one in its home county.

We drove back from Lincolnshire via Ely and then the A14... I never thought I would be so happy to see that blighted road, which I believe to be the most boring and tedious major route in the country, although I am happy to receive nominations if you know of one more wearisome.

Having, as usual, booked a flu jab a Boots, we were perturbed to receive a phone call from the chemist cancelling our appointment and rearranging it for the third week of November. She explained they had run out of vaccine and would have to wait for more to come in.

I thought I might show some initiative (so difficult, these days) and phoned my doctor’s surgery to see if they could help. It turns out I don’t qualify for a flu jab because I’m too young - that’s a first. T, he receptionist suggested I phone a pharmacy. Was I about to find myself in a “hole in my bucket” situation, back where I started? No, it was okay. Lloyds Pharmacy in Sainsbury’s were able to give me the jab for £11.50. Who would have thought you could get that from the supermarket?

In fact, it turns out that the over-65s have a different vaccine to the under 65s - I am 63 and my husband is 65 (just). It seems it is the flu-jab plus that is difficult to acquire, not the standard jab that I had.

Confused? Yes.

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