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I’m proud to beat the drum for our beloved Norfolk

PUBLISHED: 09:17 22 February 2018 | UPDATED: 10:06 22 February 2018

Norfolk and proud of it: we can laugh at ourselves - yes, and that includes Steve Coogan's spoof Norfolk DJ Alan Partridge. Picture: Archant library

Norfolk and proud of it: we can laugh at ourselves - yes, and that includes Steve Coogan's spoof Norfolk DJ Alan Partridge. Picture: Archant library

Archant

It’s high time we celebrated Norfolk and were proud of coming from here, says David Clayton.

There is, quite rightly, a lot of support and anticipation for Norfolk Day. All set for July 27 and initiated by this newspaper as well as my buddies from BBC Radio Norfolk. It’s a great local media idea and is already firing-up the county’s imagination.

I’m declaring, up front here, that I’m a Yorkshireman who came to live here in 1963. I’m hoping to qualify for Norfolk “nationality” any time soon! Norfolk is where I’ve come home to for five decades.

My time in the BBC has had me travelling around the UK often representing this county at wider broadcast gatherings. Its true to say that back in the Eighties, when I explained I’d come from Norfolk, people were generally underwhelmed. I even detected sympathetic noises. It seemed it was more fashionable to hail from London, Manchester or Yorkshire. I’m not sure now why this attitude prevailed. It may have been just simple ignorance, or the fact we were always a long way from anywhere and difficult to reach. Perhaps we didn’t shout loud enough. Perhaps we were happy to keep quiet.

On my travels these days I’m pleased to say it’s the polar opposite. For example, I was working in the Channel Islands the other week and I always make a point to chat to taxi drivers while being taken from A to B. To be honest, you get the best stories from them alongside their infamous opinions. It’s always a quick way to get a sense of the place into which you’ve temporarily landed. “Where have you come from?” I was asked by the driver, as we drove past the immovable Second World War fortifications. He’d fascinated me for a few miles about his father who had grown up during the German occupation of the Channel Islands.

When I explained I was from Norfolk, his face lit up. He began waxing lyrical about Holt and the surrounding area which he knew well from regular visits. He was looking forward to returning soon. Even though we were driving along the picturesque lanes of the island and around the beautiful bay in front of St Peter Port, it was clear this Guernsey man rated our county very highly indeed. I’m sure “the other man’s grass is always greener” was playing its part, however my chest swelled with pride as he was envious of where I lived and wanted to know as much as I could tell him about our county. I did my best.

The other thing which happens when I’m working away and declare my credentials these days is the speed at which people try and nail their own connection to our county. A distant Norfolk relative is often claimed. If not, wistful recollections of holiday trips. There is now, it seems to me, a new-found eagerness to claim some “Norfolkness.”

All right, I’ve endured years of Alan Partridge sniggers on my travels too. To be honest it always intrigued me that after his fictional early radio show he handed over to a mid-morning presenter called David Clifton. I used to present the BBC Radio Norfolk mid-morning show. That’s a little too close, thanks very much, especially as my old radio mate, Wally Webb did the early show (still does) and the speculation never really went away that Alan Partridge was really based on him. No one has ever said, officially and Wally smiles enigmatically when asked. The initial embarrassment at our county being lampooned by the brilliant Steve Coogan back in the late Nineties has now, some 20 years on, mellowed into an affectionate, comedic homage. The good thing is we can laugh at ourselves rather as Torquay did when Basil Fawlty ran a hotel.

Let’s embrace the wise words of Oscar Wilde: “There’s only one thing worse than being talked about and that’s not being talked about.”

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