How best to treat those who venture into glorious Norfolk
- Credit: Archant
Keith Skipper asks the question many of you may have once pondered over - how should we treat visitors to Norfolk
It's high time Norfolk's blatant shortcomings yanked away that well-worn welcome carpet from under all types of solace seekers.
Dreadful roads. Dilatory drivers. Crumbling cliffs. Awkward natives. Trundling tractors. Dodgy signposts. Insomniac cockerels. Deafening church bells. Steaming manure. Septic tanks. Locked public toilets. Moaning farmers. Belligerent dogs. Statuesque cyclists. Digital desert…
I could go on until a very posh car appears out of nowhere to zoom down a country lane past a knot of indigenous remnants brandishing beet-hooks and scythes and uttering Chaucerian oaths based on unwavering belief in fundamental rights of The Chosen Few.
It really is a wonder anyone wants to take the risk of jumping out of the urban frying-pan into the rural or coastal fire, either for a weekend singe or rest-of-lifetime roasting.
Joyfully jump they will, however, in their thousands, flattening a few more hundred hedgehogs, rabbits and pheasants daring to venture out on a quiet track leading to that rose-covered cottage or clifftop retreat where dreams come true.
A few with long-term aspirations will own up after one sticky summer or wicked winter and turn their backs on pastoral or seaside pleasures. Most will brave it out come hell or high water - speciality of the house at Happisburgh and doughty neighbours - and encourage city relatives and friends to take the plunge and join the happy trek.
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Well, it worked a treat in later Victorian times when Clement Scott's flowery metropolitan quill inspired an early version of Chelsea-on-Sea with artistic pretentions and lured untold riches and prestige to fishing villages Sidestrand and Overstrand.
He lived to regret the way his precious Poppyland had been transformed into bland Bungalowland. Perhaps he would have been even more aghast at the emergence of Caravanland with a smattering of industrial additions like Bacton gas terminal.
I suspect "gloriously unspoilt Norfolk" isn't sold so much these days by glossy magazines or smart estate agents organising roadshows in London, Leicester and Long Melford.
It's Auntie Gloria and Cousin Craig singing "All Things Bright and Beautiful" down the phone from Dinglenook and Dunhedgefundin that keeps the inward traffic flowing.
Okay, let's be brutally brave and assume Norfolk will remain a prime target despite all those obvious failings on parade and anguished cries against too much change undermining a useful array of priceless virtues.
Native, newcomer and fleeting tripper must find some common ground and fertilise it regularly with straightforward but effective regulations. Native demands ought to come first in this fresh campaign for peaceful co-existence, especially with some kind of reward for staying put and radiating satisfaction with the same place for a long while.
This is rapidly becoming a forsaken art and a few forward-thinking folk bred and born in the county - and therefore ideal for the task - are preparing a consultation paper which proposes double payment of council tax for second-homers and handsome concessions for faithful residents who have lived in the same house or immediate area for 20 years or more.
Another idea already drawing strong support is that all those seeking the honour of representing Norfolk at Westminster should reside for a minimum of five years in the constituency they want to send them there.
This is a logical move to prevent a well-heeled, well-educated, well-spoken, well-meaning candidate plucked from the Surrey stockbroker belt spending valuable time trying to find out what a hunnycart is for, what crab boats do, why the nit nurse should return to her round of Norfolk schools and whether "a load of ole squit" will be subject to stiff tariffs beyond Brexit.
This exciting brand of reasonably radical thinking should help break down barriers and build useful bridges to clearer understanding. There's no better way of currying favour with Norfolk people than to fully accept they are different from the start and praise them openly for it instead of criticising behind their backs.
Just to underline my own broad-minded and helpful approach to this big debate at a crucial time in Norfolk history, I can offer an illuminating and searingly honest observation from the other side.
Chatting to a well-heeled, well-educated, well-spoken and well-meaning newcomer to our midst - he arrived about eight years ago - I asked what he made of the Norfolk diehard spirit.
He smiled benignly and offered: "Well, perhaps it's best represented by old codgers who used to pedal bikes -- and now peddle nostalgia about old codgers who used to pedal bikes".
SKIP'S ASIDE Now and again I spot a letter in the Eastern Daily Press proposing the building of a substantial new town to meet Norfolk's apparently endless housing needs and so go some way towards saving our county's character.
It is then that I am blessed with a foresight simply not afforded to landowners, developers, planners and councillors. You see, I have studied a report in the EDP for July 6, 2069, It makes dreadful reading:
Sighs over size at Dunsprawlin
Last night's meeting of Dunsprawlin Town Council was marked by anxious calls to preserve the area's traditional qualities.
Chairman Ephraim Stow-Bedon warned that the town was in serious danger of finishing up just like everywhere else in Norfolk … empty shops in the centre, bunged up with traffic and lacking enough wind turbines to generate power for a growing population.
He demanded urgent talks with his opposite numbers in Lower Dunsprawlin, Dunsprawlin Tofts, Dunsprawlin Parva, Dunspreddin Bardolph, Dunspreddin Nethergate, Dunswellin Strawless and Dunswellin cum- Pitchfork to review the campaign for a single track A47 to and from the Midlands.
Vice-chairman Hermione Runcton-Holme, who has admitted to owning a second home in Upper Dunspreddin, claimed many problems were of their own making. The mobile phone museum was in the wrong place next to the drive-through local history centre while the Miniforum didn't look right with yellow curtains and solar panels.
Former mayor Cecil Field-Dalling proposed more "adoption" programmes whereby smaller Norfolk communities accepted "overspill" from the bigger ones, just like Thetford did for London last century and Long Stratton tried to do for Europe a few years ago.
He pointed to success stories at Blowyetop (formerly Seething), Stacksvlle (once known as Bale), Golikehell (Slolely) and Thirtybob (Quidenham) as stirring recent examples.
Former district nurse Avril Bedingham said it made sense for the new Norfolk & Norwich Hospital to be sited at Feltwell with awkward outpatients being straightened out at Barton Bendish.
The meeting concluded with the usual hearty rendition of We're On the Road to Nowhere and community prayers led by the Rev Amos Pilson-Green, Rector of St Mawkin's, Dunstretchin-on-the-Sosh.
Don't say you haven't been warned!