I was busying myself with morning admin when my tippy-tappying was interrupted by an old Seventies tune on Radio 2, the summertime hit ‘Beach Baby’ by the group First Class.
The great castle keep of Norwich dominates the city’s skyline. At first sight, it looks too twee to be authentic, its walls too sharp, its stonework too white and its decoration too untroubled by the march of time. No wonder Liam and I assumed it to be a folly, a romantic Victorian nod to a more chivalrous age (if such a thing ever existed). As it happens, we were entirely wrong. While most of the sprawling castle has disappeared, the old keep and its handsome white Caen limestone walls have endured for almost 900 years. Its conversion from a royal palace to the county gaol in the 14th Century stood the imposing building in good stead: the hanging, flogging and incarceration continued with great gusto for 500 years until the building opened as a museum in 1894. There’s a lesson there for us all: adapt to survive.
I’d passed around the keep many times but had never bothered to pop in for a gander. When a new exhibition caught my eye – Roman Empire: Power and People – a British Museum tour, I persuaded Liam to accompany me and a week later, dragged him out to take a look. While it didn’t quite match up to the scale and glory of the Ephesus Archaeological Museum in Selcuk (one of the highlights of our Turkey years) it was a beautifully formed diversion for a couple of hours on a crisp sunny day.
The remainder of the museum is given over to an assortment of galleries mostly dedicated to local history (Boudicca, Anglo-Saxon and Viking East Anglia, prison life). There’s even a small Egyptian gallery with its very own mummy (the excuse being that Howard Carter of King Tut fame grew up in nearby Swaffham). And only in England would you find a gallery dedicated to teapots – all 3000 of them. Sadly, the Teapot Gallery was closed (for a tea break, presumably). Generally, the exhibits had a school field trip about them. Oh to be twelve again.
The keep itself is impressive and certainly wowed Liam. The Victorian renovators removed the cell blocks to open up the building’s shell and installed a galleried balcony at the level of the original Norman floor. Two massive arches support the roof. The ‘new’ look gives a real sense of the scale, a scale which sent a strong message to the defeated and downtrodden Anglo-Saxons in their tiny thatched hovels. There was no doubt who was in charge. These days, aircraft carriers convey the same powerful message.When in Rome The great castle keep of Norwich dominates the city’s skyline. At first sight, it looks too twee to be authentic, its walls too sharp, its stonework too white and its decoration too untroubled by the march of time.
Twitter Ye Not
If ever there was cast-iron evidence for limiting the number of terms in the top job, it’s the Prime Minister of Turkey’s current spat with Twitter, an unedifying squabble that makes Erdoğan look autocratic and self-serving. Is the Twitter ban on or off? Who knows? Are the tweets about Erdoğan accurate? Who knows? Twitter is in good company. Lazy censorship is the norm in Turkey. A ban on…
Today‘s the day that same sex marriage was legalised in England and Wales. Scotland follows suit in October and it can only be a matter of time before Northern Ireland falls into line. Both England and Wales have now joined a select group of civilised nations that believe in marriage equality for all. I awoke to find my world just as I left it. We have not been smote by a vengeful God, the sun…
I first compiled my expat glossary in 2011 to be a tongue-in-cheek classification of the various expat types Liam and I encountered during our time in Turkey. The idea started with ‘emigrey’ – to describe silver-haired retirees living out their dotage in the sun. It was a play on the loan word from French word, ‘émigré,’ the past participle of ‘émigrer’ –to emigrate. The glossary caused quite a…
After 20 months, we finally closed the door on the Weaver’s Cottage and left the old parish of Norwich-Over-The-Water. It was a sad parting but bricks and mortar are just that, even when they’re 370 years old and located in the oldest ward in town. In any case, we shall return. Our new gaff (my 18th home since I dropped) is less than a mile across the city on the other side of the water. We fully intend to re-visit our old haunts every now and then and wallow in the exuberance and pretentiousness of Norwich arty types (also known as a few pints on a warm summer’s evening at the Playhouse Theatre bar).
There’s something a little bit special about Norwich-Over-The-Water. It’s reckoned by those in the know to be the site of the original Saxon (or rather Anglish) settlement called Westwic. According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, wood-pannelled Westwic was torched in 1004 by the deliciously named Sweyn Forkbeard, King of the Danes. Clearly there was something rotten in the State of Denmark, to misquote the Bard. However, the doughty arsonist’s marauding hit the right spot and he later became the first Danish king of England and introduced flat-packed furniture to a world-wide audience. Okay, I made that last bit up.
Fast forward to medieval times and Norwich-Over-The-Water welcomed Huguenot, Walloon and Flemish refugees from the near continent, fleeing religious persecution from the dastardly French and Spanish. The immigrants became known as “The Strangers” and eventually made up a third of the city’s population. Apparently, the mighty flood of immigrants caused very little resentment at the time. Far from packing out the workhouses and stealing the jobs of the local farmhands, the highly skilled expats from the Low Countries bolstered trade with mainland Europe and helped make Norwich rich. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it, Nigel Farage and your UKIP xenophobic swivel-eyed loons.
So, I give you a little tour of Norwich-Over-The-Water from the comfort of your own sofa:Norwich-Over-The-Water After 20 months, we finally closed the door on the Weaver’s Cottage and left the old parish of Norwich-Over-The-Water.
Over the cold winter on the sofa nights, ITV, Britain’s main commercial broadcaster, ran a documentary series featuring the activities of the City of Westminster’s Register Office where births, deaths and marriages are recorded. It was a distracting little show, a fly-on-the-wall, funny and touching human interest fest for a chilly midwinter’s evening that helped the digestion and wasn’t too taxing on the brain. There is something rather dignified and valiant about the ordinary people – the hatch, match and dispatch squad – who deal daily with the relentless cycle of life that we must all face and the relentless cycle of emotion that goes with it. Veteran registrar of 28 years, Patricia Gordon, confessed that she was none too comfortable with the notion of civil partnerships. But, through friendship and by example, fellow registrar Tommy helped her see the light; now she can’t wait for him to find his own soul mate so she can do the honours. And guess what? Patricia officiated at our Civil Partnership in 2008. Here is she doing the business:
Thank you for changing your mind, Patricia.Births, Deaths and Marriages Over the cold winter on the sofa nights, ITV, Britain’s main commercial broadcaster, ran a documentary series featuring the activities of the City of Westminster’s Register Office where births, deaths and marriages are recorded.
Can’t Wait to Read the Sequel
I can’t remember the last time I published a review of Perking the Pansies, Jack and Liam move to Turkeyon this blog. Generally, I try to keep my book business and random ramblings quite separate (until the Sisterhood comes out, that is). But when I was sent an out-of-the blue critique from a total stranger in a distant land, unconnected to me or Turkey, I was rather taken aback and felt…
Desperately Seeking Doreen
A cursory glance at my stats shows that Perking the Pansies pops up on the internet in totally unexpected ways. My irreverent ramblings seem to attract the lost, the lustful, the inquisitive and the ignorant – and from the four corners of the world. These are a few of my favourite search terms:
- Pussy lovers (for feline aficionados, obviously)
- Gran Canarian Sex (for a bit of bump and grind in the…