OPINION: Keith Skipper’s Dun and Dusted up on the Norfolk coast

Enticing postcard from Jifflers Gap, proposed location for a special retirement village on a remote

Enticing postcard from Jifflers Gap, proposed location for a special retirement village on a remote part of the Norfolk coastline. Picture: Trevor Allen - Credit: Archant

Thoughts of retirement are on Keith Skipper’s mind this week

If we read the runes correctly, Norfolk is in line for too many more dastardly dollops of destructive development as politicians and big business close ranks against all that cissy talk about “protecting our environment”.

Rebuilding our broken economy has to take priority over nannying a fragile ecology with well-meaning yokelism, driven largely by a drawbridge brigade always ready to put the timeless charms of West Harling way ahead of the fluctuating intrigues of Westminster.

Now, with an impish eye on both camps, I bring exclusive news of a bold pioneering project proposed for a sparsely-populated coastal patch renowned for going its own way with an independent passion since seeing off pirates, smugglers and at least a dozen wayward second-homers.

Geography and that cussed Norfolk streak have bequeathed an isolation-shaping character and an air of mystery around Jifflers Gap, flanked by Guzunder Cove and Buskin Point one side with Bronickle Staithe and Pingle Bay on the other. Clinkers Bottom disappeared completely in 1894.

A few intrepid explorers, believed to be National Geographic contributors, stumbled across this Norfolk “hideaway” over 60 years ago. They are rumoured to have described it as a “haunting mixture of Brigadoon, Shangri-La and the Bermuda Triangle”.

Plans have been submitted for a continuing care retirement community in that remote coastal area. A special village is designed to provide an alternative for people who don’t want to live in a care home or sheltered housing in later years

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A spokesman for Happy Daze, the California-based firm behind this venture – that’s the proudly local California between Caister and Scratby – has already confirmed that only those with bona fide Norfolk credentials should apply for places.

“We feel lazy winds bouncing off the North Sea and dark mutterings from indigenous remnants in the immediate vicinity and neighbouring hamlets are best appreciated by stalwarts with long experience of such luxuries” said Oscar Pightle.

“This has to be one of those rare occasions when Norfolk pulls rank and rewards home-grown loyalty”. He denies the Jifflers Gap development, tentatively called Pawking Acres, (pawking is an old Norfolk word for beachcombing) could draw accusations of short-sighted insularity and blatantly preferential treatment for well-heeled natives,

One of the key stipulations for “ole partners” in the Jifflers Gap enterprise, apart from an unfading sense of humour, is readiness to christen individual thatched cottages with names created entirely in harmony with occupants and their previous professions..

For example, a retired dentist would settle at Dunyankin, a retired wrestler at Dungrapplin and a retired banker at Dungrabbin. A former chef (celebrity or otherwise) could live at Donetoaturn, a former tobacco salesman at Dunhackin and a former charlady at Dunandusted.

Those with shady pasts could be given every chance to go straight on the last lap, with more orthodox residents encouraged towards a charitable approach when voting on fresh applications.

I gather Norfolk’s most successful jail breaker (Dunarunner), least successful fraudster (Dunuplikeakipper) and most famous old lag (Dunalotoftime) are already in the frame for admission.

Similar benevolence beckons notorious under-achievers to find overdue enlightenment on the Jifflers Gap campus – Dunbeggarall and Dunnoffin are seeking spots on the register – while Norfolk’s most renowned know-all can take his certificates, encyclopaedias and pub quiz books to Dunthelot

“Surely this proves how broad a canvas of opportunity we are unfolding on behalf of an increasingly significant section of our local population. No, you can’t turn back the clock. Yes, you can wind it up again. And every successful candidate enters safe in the knowledge they are now too old to die young” enthused Oscar Pightle.

He wants this positive glow to extend beyond Pawking Acres. Retired teachers will be sent out to the wider community to run evening classes in joined-up writing and how to talk to someone else without a phone.

Former farmers will explain where eggs, milk, bread, calves and subsidies come from. A reformed estate agent will reveal what “affordable housing” really means.

There may be scope for more cultural and social links to be fostered as the Happy Daze bandwagon gathers steam with its “Don’t retire, retread!” slogan. Company chairman Amos Hucker seeks more appreciation for what the “mature mainstream” brings to society.

“Days of patronising and then totally ignoring so much rich experience are all but over. Norfolk is leading the way in accepting how old age takes away what we’ve inherited and gives us what we’ve earned”.

Skip’s Aside: I’ve never fully recovered from being told at`13 by a rather churlish schoolmaster: “You have delusions of adequacy”.

We all love a classy insult – just as long as it is directed clearly at someone else!

Literary figures excel at the art. I recall William Faulkner sniping at Ernest Hemingway with : “He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary!”. Oscar Wilde spread his net wider: “Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go”.

Mark Twain could squeeze a memorable line out of any topic. My favourite is: “I didn’t attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it”. Closely followed by an admonishing: “Why do you sit there looking like an envelope without any address on it?”.

Groucho Marx knew how to flatter with: “I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening. But I’m afraid this wasn’t it”. Mae West wasn’t far behind when she suggested : “His mother should have thrown him away and kept the stork”.

I have picked up a useful collection of home-grown gems over many years on the Norfolk circuit, some of them still in fashion after fresh coats of verbal paint. Village gossip in my childhood was peppered with tributes like these:

She’s got a fearce like a paralysed pork-cheese..

He’s as much use as a yard o’ pump water.

If she breathed on yar chips, yew wunt need no vinegar.

He kin tork the hind legs orff a dickey.

If the wind changed, his fearce wunt take any notice.

He look as thow he got up afore he went anywhere.

He git vartigo on bottom rung o’ the ladder.

She dunt know which way her backside hang.

He’s about as sharp as a pound o’ wet leather.

He’s got a Player accent comin’ owt of’ a Woodbine packet.

I wunt believe him if he said ‘goodnight”.

He’re got short arms an’ deep pockets.

She think she is, but she ent, y’ know.

That’s quite enough of me running on like a five-bob watch. I’m off in search of adequacy.