I’m spooning up a large-sized dollop of neighbourly love
- Credit: Archant
Keith Skipper's stirring it up again - but this time for a good cause
It goes back to early days somewhere in the middle of a family of ten children. I tried to play one faction off against another in the name of fun and self-preservation before slipping into neutral territory to await results.
The village school playground proved another key arena for running with the hare and chasing with the hounds. It kept me out of most gang warfare in short trousers simply because main protagonists really believed what I told them about the other lot.
A similar strategy worked to keep most bullies at bay in grammar school. It was a bit more tricky to keep teachers made in Cantab. and Oxon. fully appreciative of how ample rations of squit could brighten the dullest of lessons.
Sporting rivalry between my home parish and a cluster of close neighbours offered fresh scope for juicy rumours, extravagant claims, personality puncturing, statistic bending and general questioning about that ludicrous idea of how taking part is far more important than winning.
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Beeston v Longham gave way to Dereham v Fakenham and Great Yarmouth v Lowestoft (or Gorleston on a quiet day) when I began my adventures on local newspapers. I tried with limited success to pitch Shipdham against Bradenham and Potter Heigham against Catfield on cheerful pub visits
For the past 30 years I have been in prime position to both encourage and enhance a gloriously healthy brand of competition between Cromer and Sheringham. I consider it important to celebrate differences and revel in a truly local identity at a time when bland uniformity threatens to snuff it out.
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Sheringham showed the ideal spirit when their town signs proclaimed; 'Welcome to North Norfolk's Premier Resort'. It may have slightly upset Mundesley, Overstrand and the Runtons but it sends out a message of joyful independence hitherto unmatched by any other local wooden spoon operatives.
As an Honorary Crab since 1988, I merely listen, watch, note, smile, frown and choke occasionally on little bones of contention in efforts to be relatively impartial. A sort of Scarlet Pimpernel swashing his Blakeney buckle in an old-fashioned crab boat which, to be fair to the crabs, goes sideways.
I have been involved in clandestine meetings with respectable Sheringham stalwarts for the fourth successive year to help smooth the path towards another cross-border raid in pursuit of coastal camaraderie and important fundraising at the Pavilion Theatre on Cromer Pier.
Crux of our deal is that I mastermind a safe passage for the Shantymen to present Another Big Wave in exchange for the right to rib them constantly with little reminders of how to behave in North Norfolk's real premier resort and to laugh heartily at all jokes proffered at their expense. Any other arrangement would simply miss the whole point of historic events like the Crab Wars.
It has worked admirably three times before mainly because musical director Brian Farrow delights in treating the occasion as another chance to emphasise how the Shantymen strive to keep up to date with their musical style.
'We are constantly looking to improve and attract fresh blood. We need to bring on the younger generation to give them and the group an entertaining future. We are still developing but largely controlled by the passage of time'.
Brian adds: 'We like to be fully appreciated wherever we go to sing. There are clear signs emerging that our Cromer Pier excursions are helping to stir fresh waves of coastal harmony. Perhaps the United Nations peace-keeping force stationed at West Runton in their trademark blue sou'westers may soon be redundant!'
There are hints of a more dramatic edge to this latest offering with formation of the Shantymen Respiratory Theatre Company and secret rehearsals after strenuous breathing exercises for those of a certain vintage. A bit of a wheeze, perhaps, but a brave step forward to strengthen a growing reputation for avant-garde variety.
Another Big Wave of mirth and music is ready to roll on Sunday, November 4 at Cromer Pier Pavilion Theatre (7.30pm). Tickets are £10 from Pier Box Office on 01263 512495 and www.cromerpier.co.uk.
All profits to go the RNLI (Cromer and Sheringham ) and Cromer Hospital Charitable Trust.
I'm cleaning up my trusty wooden spoon – just in case.