The advice I'd dish out to all newcomers to Norfolk
PUBLISHED: 22:39 30 September 2018 | UPDATED: 22:39 30 September 2018
There's no better advice for a newcomer to our fine county than to read Keith Skipper's words of wisdom
About 35 years ago, give or take the odd weekend lost in a haze of wild living beyond the drawbridge, I was invited to compile a charter for potential peaceful co-existence between Norfolk native and newcomer.
It was an honour eagerly bestowed by so-called media friends with a warped sense of humour and a challenge foolishly accepted by someone blessed with the sort of naivety designed to inspire praise and protest in equal measure from both camps.
A crusading spirit can prove such a mixed blessing, especially in an age of ready-made labels. Any indigenous remnant is stuck with obvious characteristics – suspicious, too deliberate in action and words, slow to bless and swift to chide, implacably opposed to any change. Legacies, perhaps, of being invaded and messed about so many times over the centuries.
A fair number of newcomers still bring with them an uncluttered gospel … “We moved here because we like it and we don’t want Norfolk turned into the kind of place we left behind. We can play vital parts in any campaign to preserve the county’s precious character”.
While we’re flattered by the compliment, we find a sting in the expansionist tale. If too many people move into Norfolk because they like it, chances are it WILL be relegated to the level of forsaken grubby spots.
Well, I blew a lot of dust off that evangelical treatise put together towards the last lap of the 20th century – and realised so little has altered in the meantime. Indeed, it seems reasonable to give it another airing as Norfolk attracts even more residents, visitors and interest.
I will stick with the original idea of putting native demands first simply because they are more important than anything else likely to surface in this great debate.
When you qualify as a “local” still depends more on the folk among whom you are privileged to live rather than any fixed term of apprenticeship;
Newcomers must accept Norfolk people are different and should praise them openly for it instead of scoffing and criticising behind their backs.
Newcomers and visitors should deliberately mispronounce Norfolk words and place-names, like Happisburgh and Postwick, to give locals a clear psychological advantage.
Jokes about passports, drawbridges, turkeys, ferrets, unhelpful signposts and close-knit families should be kept under wraps until a clear rapport has been established.
Pub conversations should avoid most references to housing estates, hypermarkets, dual carriageways, Estuary English, electrified commuters and Ipswich Town.
All Norfolk schools should encourage the local vernacular rather than try to kill it off through teachers and pupils who have moved in. “Squit” should become a GCSE subject as soon as possible.
Newcomers and visitors must agree Norfolk people have a marvellous sense of humour - even if all evidence occasionally points to the contrary.
Observation of these simple regulations ought to make considerable inroads into doubtful areas where deception and distrust have reigned too long. Now, members of the indigenous population are asked to take note of the following guidelines:
Norfolk natives must not gloat too openly or too often over their good fortune to be bred and born in The Promised Land.
They should be proud to be different but also capable of pulling up short of proving downright awkward in the face of banal questioning or mystified looks, particularly in Happisburgh an Postwick.
Automatic aversion to change must not be encouraged – except where it might have an obvious impact on what appears to have always been there.
Jokes about furriners, estate agents, missionaries, Received Pronunciation, second-homers and outline planning applications should be kept under wraps until a clear rapport has been established.
Pub conversations should avoid all references to “them what move in and try ter tearke over” and “I walk down the street an’ dunt know ennybody I meet”.
Natives must accept that newcomers and visitors may never grasp the full glories of the dialect and humour. But these should never be used to score cheap points – except in the village pantomime and parish council meetings.
There we are, friendly advice given and taken in the right spirit. It has to be the right way forward as Norfolk squares up to more mighty challenges
Okay, there can never be an all-purpose hymn of local praise. However, that should not preclude bold efforts to encourage all and sundry to learn a few of the verses or at least join in the chorus