OPINION: My career as a wordsmith blossomed on Norfolk's flowery vernacular

 A puckish breeze can send April blossoms into a whirl of natural confetti … the perfect extra for a country wedding! 

A puckish breeze can send April blossoms into a whirl of natural confetti … the perfect extra for a country wedding! - Credit: Trevor Allen

I recall a homely interview starring a delightfully modest diamond wedding couple on a bright April morning early in my local press reporting career.

Alfred and Sarah welcomed me into their neat little country cottage with a fresh cup of tea and promise of “suffin’ a bit stronger” once memories and mardling had stopped flowing

He called her “My Old Blossom.” She dubbed him “Puddin’“ throughout, It seemed natural enough for a Norfolk pair who got married not long after the death of Queen Victoria.

They didn’t want a lot of fuss about their big milestone and planned nothing more elaborate than a family gathering at the village hall and “a long walk along familiar lanes ter chew over our years tergether,” to serve as celebrations.

I had to ask about those affectionate nicknames for each other. “She’s matured nicely into My Old Blossom since we wed on a breezy April day when Mother Nature shook them bushes and trees to provide all the confetti we needed,” Alfred chuckled as he wrapped an ample arm round her aproned waist and announced with exaggerated solemnity: “Just one proud and careful owner in 60 years!”

Sarah gave him a playful nudge in the ribs. “He allus say he married me cors I larnt ter cook properly while I wuz in service at the big house near the farm where he worked with the hosses. As yew kin see, he hent dun ser bad on my good old-fashioned grub - an’ he’ll probably want another puddin ‘afore the day is out!”

Yes, there was time for that stock question regarding a recipe for such a long and successful partnership. Alfred suggested it helped to spend more time listening than talking on certain occasions. He looked my way and added: “You know, like you’re a’ dewin’ right now.” That line has come back many times to remind me of priorities during a lengthy full-time stint as observer and chronicler of Norfolk life.

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There are some words carrying sufficient power and purpose to lift the heart, tease out the sun and banish growing fears that too many splinters await those sliding down the banister of life .”Blossom” falls neatly and sweetly into that uplifting category at this time of year. It’s hard to imagine the word employed in a negative context – although one of my less gregarious grammar school masters did his best when he suggested: “Keith would do well to pay more attention in class if he wants latent talent to blossom.”

I may well have been drifting off now and again in the direction of musical and literary delights worthy of April adulation. I’ll Be With You in Apple Blossom Time pledged the Andrews Sisters while Eddie Calvert, The Man with the Golden Trumpet, let rip once again with Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White.

The Orange Blossom Special train should have shunted into Swaffham before Beeching cast a malicious shadow over our highly sensible transport system. He put paid to far more lines than I ever managed in detention.

A Blossom Fell crooned Nat King Cole to suit the mood. Blossom Dearie laid down several sophisticated tracks before I paid enough attention to her talents as jazz pianist and singer. I cleaned my school shoes with Cherry Blossom polish to show a certain master how a practical touch was emerging alongside dazzling contributions to class discussions.

He appeared almost impressed by my introduction of Joe Blossom as a character from the works of PG Wodehouse but refused to devote a whole period to nicknames decorating the pages of Charles Dickens after my discovery of David Copperfield’s first wife Dora being hailed as Little Blossom. Perhaps a certain Norfolk suitor of the early 1900s took his cue from that example …

Scattergun adventures such as these sharpened an interest in our language well beyond general requirements for GCE passes. I gloried in being dubbed a rapscallion, asked for a second opinion over blackguard and blamed Shakespeare for earning me the status of scurvy knave.

Joy knew no bounds when I realised abstentious and facetious could be the only words in English with all vowels on show in the right order. Others may have come to light since my research in the early 1960s but these two have served me well enough when turning down a drink because it might make me too loquacious.

Then it dawned on me I might easily end up bilingual as I tuned in eagerly to dialect words and phrases used plentifully in our household, among most neighbours and across other swathes of Norfolk as a newspaper reporting career broadened the canvas. To be told: “That’ll be a noice day if that dunt rain,” and: “Thass a lot of ole squit!” meant much more than being part of a stiring survival campaign.

Such gems underlined the power and glory of being different with a colourful and vibrant vernacular leading the way towards the likes of My Old Blossom and Puddin’.