Wensum, September 1, 2015: Good luck, Ben!

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The 2012 Tour of Britain winds its way through Norfolk.

The empty nest syndrome is an experience we have personally gone through repeatedly over the past fifteen years thanks to our three boys all attending universities in London at different periods.

One thing I’ll not regret when it all comes to an end in the next couple of years is the process of driving down to the big city with a car packed full of ‘stuff’ to help keep body and soul together and encourage independence. And then repeating the exercise in the other direction after emptying one flat or another of seemingly even more ‘stuff’ when it’s been time to come home for a period. I’ve never really enjoyed that drive to Barnes, Twickenham, Ealing, Kensington, Fulham or whichever tucked away corner a son has found himself a place to stay.

Perhaps I’ve lived in rural Norfolk too long now, but the nostalgia for the bright lights I used to love when doing the same sort of thing back in the 1970s has long since passed. I was one of the few students amongst my contemporaries to have a car and don’t recall much of a problem with getting around, coping with traffic, parking and whatever.

Now it all seems to be so much more challenging, especially on unfamiliar territory. One young man about to embark on this particular rite of passage is Fakenham College graduate Ben Johnson, whose outstanding exam achievements were highlighted in the Lynn News a couple of weeks back. Ben secured four A* at A-level in maths, further maths, physics and chemistry and has been accepted to study natural sciences at Trinity College, Cambridge.

One of Ben’s contributions to our town has been as a regular server at Fakenham parish church services on Sunday mornings. Trinity College has been patrons of the church for hundreds of years which adds a particular dimension to this tale. As a parting gift from the ‘serving team’ at church, Ben was given a bag of goodies which included a tin of baked beans and a tin opener. Very appropriate, too.

n With the Fakenham 50 bike rides having just concluded Active Fakenham week in the town, attention now turns to the Tour of Britain coming our way on September 12. The Norfolk and Suffolk stage, which is the penultimate leg of the UK’s biggest professional cycle race, takes off from Fakenham racecourse in the morning. Riders will pedal their way eastwards to Aylsham, then southwards to Norwich before heading towards Wymondham and Thetford prior to crossing the Suffolk border and making tracks for Ipswich.

The last time the tour included this region was in 2012 when thousands of people turned out in towns and villages to applaud the likes of Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish on their way. It’s a tremendous spectacle and I can envision Fakenham residents packing the road sides through the town and out along Holt Road just like they did when the London Olympics flame was carried through three years ago.

What a day in prospect to cherish.