OPINION: Gentle cooking of the historical books makes Norfolk so different

Library file 900/47/9 dated 30.7.66.Team manager Alf Ramsay and trainer Harold Sheperdson (standing)

Alf Ramsay, seated, centre, watches England's victory over West Germany in the 1966 World Cup final. Had Norwich won the FA Cup in 1959, could Canaries boss Archie Macaulay have led England to World Cup glory instead? - Credit: PA

That’s the trouble with history – no matter what happened, there was always someone there who knew that would.

I wasn’t about for a lot of it and so I’m prone to adopt a reasonable Norfolk stance and treat it all with a fair measure of suspicion.

I have been known to nip in when no-one’s looking to change a few things, mainly for the better. Like turning “Turnip” Townshend into “Turnup Townshend ” and crediting him with the introduction of proper trousers for workers on the Raynham estate.

They caught on and inspired early fashion houses in the Burnhams and Creakes and production of fur-lined pyjamas for winter in Great and Little Snoring. Thomas Coke of Holkham followed that pioneering spirit when he championed sheep sharing, a bright idea destined to spill over into a golden age of co-operative farming.

Both luminaries loved their grub and may well have influenced the Norfolk Four-Course Menu at Carrow Road and other gourmet establishments. This ought not to be confused with outstanding community work in the Melton Constable area in the early 1800s when a quartet of trailblazing law enforcers took it in turn to stamp out villainy in worst-affected parishes.

The Norfolk Four-Cop Rotation system won many admirers long before Robert Peel nicked the idea to sort out a London police force. Talking of capital gains in the Norfolk colonies, would our beloved Chelsea-on-Sea even have emerged if Horatio Nelson had first seen light of day at Barton Bendish rather than Burnham Thorpe?

It’s not too difficult to imagine well-heeled stars of stage, screen and ravioli touching down at nearby RAF Marham in readiness for a relaxing weekend among the genteel folk of Mayfair-at-Ease around the unspoilt charms of Barton Bendish, Beachamwell, Boughton and Bexwell.

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What if the Danes and Vikings had left their rape and silage behind when they called to see how our broadband was coming on? Had they concentrated instead on encouraging the noble art of dwile-flonking, it might now be an Olympic sport and regular source of gold for Great Britain along with beer-mopping and pitchfork-twirling

What if Robert Kett and his rebellious chums had won the Battle of Dussindale in 1549? Would that large housing development north of Norwich have received planning permission? What if Clement Scott had got as far as Bacton on his clifftop ramble on arriving in Cromer by train in 1883? Would he have weighed up prospects for natural gas ahead of an unnatural pipeline to London’s Victorian yuppies?

Sport - Norwich City Football Club (NCFC); Archie Macaulay, Norwich City manager from 1957 to 196

Former Norwich City manager Archie Macaulay - Credit: Archant

What if Norwich City had beaten Luton Town in their FA Cup semi-final replay and marched on to lift the trophy in 1959? Would it have been Sir Archie Macaulay tasting World Cup glory with England instead of that chap who did a useful job at Ipswich?

What if King’s Lynn and Thetford had rejected expansion schemes actively encouraged by London overspill supporters in the 1960s? Would they be more appealing places in which to live and work as a result of not heeding siren voices?

What if all those people strongly opposed to introduction of wheelie-bins a few years back had got their way? Would civilisation as we know, love and recycle it have been left lying in a state to mock Norfolk’s growing green reputation?

I dare say some old codgers stuck in their homely ways found plenty to moan about when them Romans arrived to enlighten the peasants through the good offices of their lawyers, Sacking, Burning & Looting. A hot bath every month, whether it was needed or not, set the tone for firm but far-reaching decrees to sort out errant natives.

Boadicea, one of the first “real” people in Norfolk history, showed just how dangerous wheelie-bins could be by sticking knives in the sides and leading a blood-soaked revolution against the newcomers. She lost after extra time in Colchester, St Albans and London.

Terrifying images of our warrior queen have flowered into folklore over the centuries. One Greek columnist of the day told The Iceni Bugle: “She was of the largest size, most terrible in aspect, most savage of countenance and harsh voice, having a profusion of yellow hair which fell down to her hips and wearing a large golden collar.”

The Romans took revenge by building roads, including a through-route called the Peddars Way. This linked north Essex wit the Wash and Lincolnshire. The world was shrinking.

Perhaps the North Folk Fundamentalists fell into a complacency trap or two in 7000 – 8000BC ….. how could they work out the date in those days?... when the rising sea level finally cut the land link between Britain and Europe and Norfolk covered a much larger area than at any time since.

Tighter passport control and nationalisation of the flint mines at Weeting might have helped. But Norfolk knew deep down that their destiny rested with missionaries from Europe.

Skip's Aside:

An old Norfolk story, bound to be true, features a country stalwart being interviewed by a local reporter on his 100th birthday.

“You must have seen many changes in your lifetime” prompted the eager young scribe. “Yis” growled the village venerable .”And I hev opposed every blasted one of ‘em!.”

Such unshakeable defiance can still draw a smile or two or even a gentle nod of approval from those who like their home-grown characters to mix the colourful with the cussed.

On the whole, however, our fast-changing homeland now brooks little affection for remnants of the drawbridge brigade.

Ironically, keenest advocates of a rigid non-expansionist policy in certain Norfolk quarters come from comparatively recent arrivals who have found the promised land and don’t want it mucked up by those they left behind. Such are the niceties of an open-minded approach to population flow.

Hardly suitable attire for Question Time

Hardly suitable attire for Question Time - Credit: Submitted

I had to smile a year or two back when Question Time thundered into Norwich with David Dimbleby at the wheel and someone noted a marked lack of local accents on parade. The television panel made no concessions although I gather a proposal for all to wear eye patches in honour of Nelson’s County was ruled out only at the last minute.

Just imagine the outcry if this programme had ended with with an attempt to ingratiate itself with Norfolk at large after nearly an hour of high-powered debates about national and global issues., “Yes, you sir, the gentleman at the back in a very smart white smock with bindertwine around the waist and rubber boots splashed with cow muck Please remove that straw from your mouth and give us your question on futility rites ….”

Fortunately, the BBC at top level knows better than to wade into murky parochial waters after countless years of confusing Norfolk and Suffolk with Devon and Somerset. They even play fairly safe with regional output as Corby, Kettering and Milton Keynes rub shoulders with Cromer, King’s Lynn, and Moulton St Mary.

Newcomers to our golden acres must wonder where the South-East and Anglia begin and end. Life was much simpler when we had East Anglia made up of next-door neighbours fully prepared to fall out, make up, stick together when it mattered , glory in their subtle differences and generally leave rest of the world green with envy.

“That special relationship” meant Norfolk and Suffolk preening themselves in the sunny assurance of not having far to go to make a case for total independence or to seek the other’s understanding for a possible bilateral approach to end meddling by London or other foreign parts.

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