OPINION: Humbling kindness reverberates around Norfolk this winter

Lady Dannatt, Lord Lieutenant for Norfolk, at her desk at home in Keswick. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Lady Dannatt, Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk, at her desk at home in Keswick - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

Last week I visited two exceptional primary schools in Great Yarmouth.

It was during one of our recent most glorious of autumnal days: bright sunshine, vapour trails marbling wide, and pale blue skies.

As I approached, Yarmouth herself was just visible on the horizon; blood pressure falls, and there, and there, she is.

People who know me well, understand I have a joint passion for both our two most eastern and western seaports in Norfolk.

Different in so many ways.

But also bonded in the most crucial.

Fisherfolk lived, worked and died in both Yarmouth and King's Lynn, in the harshest and most brutal of living and working conditions.

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Only visit the Time and the Tide and True’s Yard fisherfolk museums to understand the extent of how our forebears travailed not only to survive, but to feed their kith and kin, and oft, incredibly, achieve much beyond.

As for the two primary schools?

Just bubbling over with joy, a palpable enthusiasm and a genuine love and appreciation for their safe and kind places of learning.

I met with a number of young students and enjoyed wide-ranging conversations.

How it might feel to swallow a live goldfish whole and living with an indoor rabbit, featured every bit as importantly as did how to flourish in a school community, post-Covid.

My appreciation for Norfolk’s exceptional teaching staff, not only in Yarmouth, but right across the county, is limitless. I am in awe, and Norfolk owes you all a profound debt of gratitude, yet again, for the remarkable job you do.

Nothing, but nothing is more important than accepting, understanding, instructing, and supporting the young charges in your care.

Nurturing their strengths and encouraging them through their weaknesses. And then, ultimately, setting them free to fly, with kindness, confidence and integrity packed tightly under their wings.

Kindness reverberates so often in what I am privileged enough to do.

The plaque which will be given out to Norfolk towns and villages by Lord Lieutenant for Norfolk Lady

The plaque which will be given out to Norfolk towns and villages by Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk Lady Dannatt and the Lieutenancy - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

Recently I have been humbled by the kindness found in every corner of this extraordinary county of ours.

Feltwell Pantry, operating out of her magnificent village church and serving up to nine remote and rural communities on the fringes of the Fens. Not just food but rails of warm coats for growing children; and more essentially still, a warm welcome and listening ear for those who may need it most.

The Burrell Shop in Thetford is bustling in comparison. But exactly the same ethos applies; a total and non-judgemental acceptance, all laced with the typical warmth, compassion and gentle humour of Billie and her exceptional team.

Many who would have been facing a cold and hungry winter, choosing between whether to heat or to eat, are finding they now have the resources to do both.

To our previous Bishop, Graham James, whose inspiration it was to set up the Norfolk Community Foundation some 16 years ago, and to all who have taken that vision forward since, thank you.

Projects like this would not exist and thrive in the imaginative way they do without your underlying support.

Kindness of a different sort now, a truly inspirational, beautifully crafted Quilt of Kindness, born out of the loneliness of the two lockdowns and displayed in all its glory and humanity by those who created it at Christ Church, Eaton. Equally impressive, in this stunning community church on the edge of the city, is its genuine desire to combat the ongoing loneliness that afflicts so many in society today.

For those in more rural areas, the Rotarian’s revolutionary Cuppa Care Bus connects with the isolated and is bringing people together right across the county.

It is the abundance of small kindnesses, such as these, when knitted together, that provide a transformative blanket of care for those who need it most.

Our beguiling and mottled late autumn days may yet herald a harsh winter ahead.

More than 500 bright blue plaques are currently being presented by the lieutenancy to town and parish councils county-wide to commemorate the community’s resilience during the pandemic.

Norwich-born Harriet Martineau’s words resonate on those plaques as clearly today as they did nearly 200 years ago:  “Live your best, and act your best, and think your best today”.

With those words in mind Norfolk won’t go far wrong this winter.

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