Writer’s journey from New York to California via Norfolk

PUBLISHED: 19:30 08 January 2020

California Sands. Picture: JP Appleton/iwitness24

California Sands. Picture: JP Appleton/iwitness24

(c) copyright

Writer Jeremy Page traces a route through his roots with humour, history and love, as he walks, cycles and boats across Norfolk

New York to California by Jeremy Page  Picture: submittedNew York to California by Jeremy Page Picture: submitted

It sounds like a riddle. How can a journey from New York to California be rooted and routed, in Norfolk?

Answer, when New York is a village in Lincolnshire and California is on the east coast of Norfolk.

New York to California is a magical, magnetic book, trawling across the bump of the east of England to reveal its heart in everything from the nicknames of Sheringham fishing families to Broads chalets festooned with fading ornaments; and from the level landscapes of the fens to the levity of the stallholders of Norwich Market.

Jeremy Page was born in Lincolnshire and grew up in Norfolk and his walk, bike and boat ride into and through his home county is a journey back to his childhood, with many diversions to the foundations of the Flat Earth Society, to a prostitute-saving preacher eaten by lions, to the first humans to leave a trace in northern Europe and to many more of the stories and landscapes he encounters.

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The book is fascinating and funny, a love letter to East Anglia, a travelogue, a memoir, nature writing and history. By turns ramshackle and dreamy and then smart as science and direct as a drainage dyke, it reveals some of the wonders of the east, dredging treasure from flatlands, industrial estates and holiday camps as well as from the better known beauty spots of the coast and countryside.

The past constantly bleeds into Jeremy's 21st century journey as he tries to place grainy photographs taken by his grandfather and memories of his own growing up in Sheringham, West Runton, and Norwich.

Jeremy sleeps on a beach, in a budget hotel and in his childhood bedroom, ventures out on a crab boat, chances upon a cattle auction in Norwich, talks about the giant jawbone he once found, from a dead whale beached and blown-up at Brancaster beach, and kept in his Norwich garden, and the time he almost crewed the Albatross (now a pancake restaurant moored in Wells) across the North Sea. For much of his journey he is accompanied by an enigmatic, highly educated, discerning and sometimes disconcerting friend Heath and his whippet, Half Shandy.

Jeremy and Heath delight in collecting scraps of overheard conversation, meet a man who controls the flow of rivers at Denver Sluice, canoe through disorientating jungle-like swamps, and rest in a churchyard full of giants. From a childhood in north Norfolk, including an early attempt to set up a pizza van in Sheringham with his brother, Jeremy went on to write novels and work as script editor for the BBC, Channel 4, Film 4 and Netflix. He has also taught on the creative writing course at the University of East Anglia.

New York to California is subtitled A journey across the East of East England looking for the not quite visible. As the journey meanders along roads, paths and waterways, and from deep history to the present day, a love of Norfolk sings from every page.

New York to California by Jeremy Page, is published by Propolis, the imprint of The Book Hive bookshop in Norwich.

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