It’s not raining, but the radio is crackling over the commentary on Test Match Special so the forecast thunderstorms can’t be far away. It is a Friday afternoon and I have been to the allotments and picked the beetroot, carrots, fennel and beans. Tonight’s curries have been prepared (Madras and Korma) and they are happily marinading in the kitchen in readiness for the family gathering. So with nothing other to do than sit on the patio listening to the cricket, waiting for the rain to arrive, guiltily sipping a tasty bottle of beer as an aid to fermenting a mental picture of the England v India contest, I have decided to be virtuous and write this blog instead. After all, the beer will taste all the better for marinading in its bottle and being supped later!

Around a month ago we booked a hotel in Clacton-on-Sea for a couple of away days through a GoGroopie voucher. On Sunday night I rang the  Laxfield Hotel to confirm that I had a parking space reserved.  To my surprise they were not aware of our booking. Further questioning ascertained that the people who were running the hotel  had ‘done a runner’ with quite a lot of cash and equipment. The person I was talking to was the owner and the first she knew about what had happened was when the keys were pushed through her letter box in Harrow. She gave us the option of staying, but paying again for B&B. I said I would ring back. After checking the GoGroopie website, firing off an email to their Customer Services Department, Sue and I decided to go ahead and visit Clacton. I rang back and made a booking.

The following morning we  travelled down to Flatford Mill. I had been there myself quite a few times and thought that Sue would enjoy discovering ‘Constable country’ and stand on the spot where the ‘Haywain’ was painted. I wasn’t wrong. It was a lovely day and the Mill and surrounding attractions were fairly busy with the ‘more mature’ tourists. As usual all the information boards were read, photos taken and paths trodden. We had a picnic lunch in the nature garden established by the RSPB next to Bridge Cottage before continuing our journey to the sea.

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After having some difficulty finding a parking space in the streets surrounding the hotel we carried our bags into reception. There was an elderly couple accompanied by two grandchildren in discussion with (who we discovered) was the owner. Unfortunately they had been unaware of the situation and they too had a voucher. Patiently waiting and listening we discovered that the ‘runner’ had made off with £3500 of GoGroopie vouchers and £42000 of Wowcher vouchers.  As they had thoughtfully taken all documentation and the Bookings register she didn’t know who was coming or when and they hadn’t at that moment a room available for them. Luckily, at that moment the phone rang and someone who had previously discovered the situation cancelled their booking, thus making a room available. As we chatted to them we found out that they had come from Lutterworth (small world).

We checked in after Sue had done an inspection and chose a room with curtains, the alternative was a larger room without curtains. We made a coffee in the room and then set off to discover Clacton. First, we walked the Pier, then along the promenade stopping for fish and chips at a suitable outlet. We next trekked through the town centre checking the times of films at the local cinema. We spent some time waiting for  the start of ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’  in a local hostelry. For a Monday night it proved to be a quite popular film and I am not surprised as we found it most entertaining and very sympathetically done. Well worth seeing.


The following morning we had a reasonable cooked breakfast before chatting with the couple from Lutterworth who had managed to contact GoGroopie and confirmed that they would be refunding all voucher money.

We had planned a 7 mile stroll along the coast to Walton-on-the-Naze.  It was a lovely sunny day though there was a refreshing sea-breeze to keep us cool.  Clacton is definitely a destination for the lazier Londoners as  we came across no one else on our route. We stopped briefly at Holland -on-the-Sea to admire the offshore windmills and then carried on to Walton. First we visited a hostelry on the sea front to quench our thirst then trod the boards of the pier to see the Life-boat moored at the end.

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Next we wandered into the rather picturesque centre of the town and had lunch in a cafe. Further wanderings followed with a return visit to the hostelry. Later on having seen all the sights worth looking at we found a bench next to a bus stop and sat licking ice-creams while we waited to catch a local omnibus to Clacton. It is a very long while since Sue and I have used such a mode of transport and were quite shocked to discover that the single fare was £7!!!!!!!!!

On return to the hotel we had coffee in our room before another walk along the promenade to the Martello tower on the outskirts of the town. We trekked back across town to have a very pleasant evening meal at a Nepalese restaurant.

As the previous morning, we were woken up at the crack of dawn by extremely loud squabbling seagulls. For a while we watched them through the window. It was like a scene from Birdy High Noon. Devoid of any traffic at that time in the morning the gulls were occupying the road and obviously using the flat surface to march around and scream at each other whenever they met. What they were up to I have no idea, but the scene would have been worthy of an inclusion in the ‘Gunfight at the OK Corral’.

After breakfast we handed in our keys and set off in the pouring rain up to The Naze. We arrived just before 10am in the teeth of a storm and parked outside the Tower. Heroically we put on our wet gear and braved the elements and walked to the Tower. It was open. We paid the entrance fee and took our time climbing the tower up some tightly spiralled iron stairs, stopping off at the many floors to peruse the exhibited artwork and historic displays. By the time we reached the top and exposed ourselves to the elements we were pleased that the rain had stopped but the cloud and hurricane winds were still making things uncomfortable.

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On return to Terra-Firma we set off on a 4 mile walk around the Naze. Thankfully the further we proceeded into our journey the better the weather became. We stopped at various spots to pick up fossils and locate three geocaches that I had plotted into my GPS. Towards the end of our adventure the sun was out, the wind had ceased and we discovered a fish and chip shop. Not the best fish and chips we have ever had, but none-the-less satisfying. Returning to the car we again climbed the Tower and looked at the view, this time under a clear blue sky before setting off back to Harborough. David rang me during the journey, he was in Harborough and wanted the address for Nan. By the time we got home he had left on his journey to Yorkshire.

For a couple of away days it had been in quite different circumstances than any of our previous excursions. We accomplished all that we had planned and thankfully we have already been re-reimbursed for our voucher. It is sad that such scams/fraudulent activities are become increasingly prevalent and that you have to be ever on the alert for such things. Apparently one of the ‘runners’ (with three different names) just prior to dropping off the keys, posted on Facebook that they were off to Spain and couldn’t wait to go. The owner thinks that is where they have gone, but I guess that is just another ruse and they have moved to another part of the country to repeat the scam. I think it is significant that they had just taken delivery of a top of the range commercial coffee maker with a years supply of coffee, and that disappeared too.


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