Sorry to be missing out on eagerly-anticipated show

Sheringham Shantymen are tuning up for another gala charity show on Cromer Pier

Sheringham Shantymen are tuning up for another gala charity show on Cromer Pier. - Credit: Sheringham Shantymen

I had hoped to remove several layers of rust and step out for a long-awaited return to the local entertainment stage in one of the most eagerly anticipated fixtures of the year.

Sheringham Shantymen steal over the border for another gala charity concert at the end of Cromer Pier on Sunday, November 14 to mark their first 30 years of tuneful fundraising and friendship.

They sent me an invitation to again bid them welcome and hand out unbiased reminders on how to behave in North Norfolk’s premier resort as they take to the boards of the Pavilion Theatre at 7.30pm.

I have dispensed similar playful pleasantries on several previous visits to underline enduring value of cheerful local rivalry, especially when it comes to Shifty Shannocks and Crafty Crabs bent on keeping that traditional Crab Wars spirit flickering..

Sadly, I won’t be picking up my cue for this twice-delayed show, now seen by performers and supporters alike as a big survival celebration.

A combination of niggling health problems and pressing family commitments has forced me to send profuse apologies for absence along with fond hopes of a leg-pulling reunion next year.

In the meantime, I’m delighted to thank long-standing pal Olly Day for agreeing to take over compering duties and coat them in his irrepressible Norfolk style blessed with liberal dashes of endearing cheekiness.

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He shared an entertainment bill recently with the Shantymen at the Princess Theatre in Hunstanton. Olly, of course, has been a regular performer on the Cromer Pier stage in recent years starring in Christmas shows and a variety of other productions. Including regular gigs with Jonathan Wyatt Big Band.

Olly Day

Olly Day - Credit: Olly Day

I’ve known and liked Olly Day long enough to appreciate theatrical flair is a genuine extension of a homely and engaging personality as caring family man and dependable friend.

We often recall memories of a milestone occasion on Cromer Pier in the summer of 1984 I organised and hosted A Night of Squit, featuring homespun performers who had emerged as firm favourites on the local wireless Olly made a big impression with his first outing on the stage he now knows so well

His menu of magic, mirth and music has earned him a tidy living and strong following ever since along with his colourful role as road safety ambassador in local schools.

That fixture also launched 25 years of travelling entertainment for me and a troupe of followers gradually evolving into the Press Gang, a mean green machine recycling the sort of material which used to fill village meeting places before television ruled so many lives.

Keith Skipper and Friends

Keith Skipper and friends - Credit: Keith Skipper

The resilient Shantymen have done remarkably well to stay in close harmony throughout all the pandemic disruption and restrictions. They took eagerly to technology for a series of virtual performances before returning to the live gig trail since July.

Brian Farrow, their ever-challenging musical director for the past 25 years, has clearly instilled a strong brand of self-sufficiency within the ranks to deal with the unexpected on stage and to encourage as much natural spontaneity as possible.

Bound to be a fair bit of “Good to be allowed back into Cromer” banter in a fortnight when the latest cross-border raid promises healthy bonuses for Cromer and Sheringham RNLI and the Sir Norman Lamb Mental Health and Wellbeing Fund. The former MP for North Norfolk will be on hand to receive his cheque on the night and indicate how the money will be spent to help his special cause.

The programme will also include a special tribute to Shantymen stalwart Dennis Hotson, who died earlier this year. Dennis made a memorable mark over several seasons filling gaps between musical items with amusing anecdotes and yarns.

As usual, tickets - all at £15 – have been selling well, but I gather some are still available from Pavilion Theatre box office on 01263 512495.

A rare chance to see and hear a Norfolk Ollygarchy in full cry to raise spirits and precious funds for excellent causes.

Skip's aside

It took me well over an hour to pop into town the other morning for bread rolls and cakes.

My wife didn’t ring the police, organise a search party or simply give thanks for extra rations of peace and quiet She knew instinctively I had fallen hostage yet again to Norfolk’s cheapest but most rewarding pastime—mardling.

It costs nothing except unashamed willingness to neglect what you’re supposed to be doing and where you’re meant to be going and to lose yourself for several minutes (or days if you can spare them)in off-the-cuff chat about this, that and other topics to be tackled by Panorama, or Puckaterry Parva Forget-Me-Nots Club.

My leaf-crunching progress to and from the bakery took me past fidgety characters apparently trying to communicate with themselves or each other via funny little gadgets clearly designed to provoke embarrassing bouts of prattling, preening and pirouetting

I settled as usual for live eye-to-eye contact, starting with the man on a mobility scooter who always has the decency to laugh when I call it a weapon of mass disruption

He talked of pub and supermarket adventures =!”you get much better service when you smile¬ - to the way Norfolk natives remain suspicious to incomers, however long they may strive to earn their naturalisation papers suggested our regular mardles down The Loke proved how peaceful co-existence might be achieved with the right amount of give and take. I reminded him how often I had been told I wasn’t born in Cromer and therefore merely an Honorary Crab.

A woman from Sheringham –“ you won’t know me but my husbands’ cousin came on your radio show once to talk about lighthouses” – felt obliged to report she had brought her passport. I took her word for it but warned how United Nations peace-keeping forces at West Runton wearing their trademark blue sou’ westers would be much stricter on the journey back.

We unflustered pedestrians chortled at stories about panic buying, while one chatty shopkeeper said he couldn’t help noticing insensitive billing in the weekend television schedules with Dancing on Ice followed by yet another programme about the Titanic.

A chap from Mundesley wanted to know it the Vikings invented Norse Code. Time to get home and look that one up. Well, man cannot live on bread and cakes alone.

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