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? #1 i “W ‘mew....\.mw It was a tight squeeze. The Jehovah‘s Witnesses were in town en masse. Earlier. the Air UK turboprop (‘a real plane’ said my boy‘s own companion) had been stuffed with oil men heading from Aberdeen down south. Real estate agents tell us that Norwich is bulging. Within the space of a few years, the East Anglian capital has boomed. Where once you could wheel a double baby-buggy down the street. is now impassable.
Norwich, gainly and richly historical, has drawn commuters and weekenders from London, who, buying their country cot mansions for a mere £350,000, have inﬂated house prices by 40%. It is now the place to have your weekend residence. Next best is a weekend break.
Wags will tell you that Norwich has 365 pubs. one for every day of the year, and 52 churches in which to repent your drinking each Sunday. Unfortunately the former suffer from English licensing hours, and many of the latter have become places of merchandise not worship. hosting craft fairs, antique and collectors sales. jumble sales and the rest. But the architecture, with its Dutch inﬂuence evident in pan-tiles,
is still impressive.
Upon arrival (‘Norwich is one of the few cities in Britain that you can get to be land. sea or air‘ says the commentator on the selfdubbed Venice River Cruise). ﬂint strikes the eye. Walls. churches. roads, bridges—all made of ﬂint or with ﬂint insets. There is little chrome-and-neon life in Norwich. But although it remains pleasantly behind the times in this respect, Norwich boasts many firsts. Here barbed wire was invented. Here the first pedestrianised street in Europe was located. Other claims to fame include the second highest cathedral spire in Britain, Nelson. Edith Cavell, Kett's Rebellion, Black Beauty and the interfering Bishop Matthew Parker, from whence ‘Nosey Parker‘.
Being built around the tidal River Wensum (very clean—it supplies the city‘s water) has its advantages: riverside pubs and walks. The pubs
are generally fine and Olde Englishe
with promising names like the MischiefTavern and the Ribs of Beef. There are also ﬂuvial disadvantages-holiday- makers in river boats coming up from Great Yarmouth in ﬂeets. In olden times.
chains were hung from one side of the river to the other to prevent boats sneaking past in the dead of night. Nowadays. the river boats are confined to moorings near the station. and are therefore invisible unless you take a stroll to the Cow Tower. home of ghosts and pigeons. But no doubt local workers find some sport in plodding along the pavement near the city-mooring singing loudly at seven in the morning.
The Castle Museum presents stranger species than the holiday-maker. Taxi-dermed beasts sit in glass cages with glassy eyes. making their snufﬂy and squawky noises do a tape-recorder without moving their lips. An unstuffed human. in the skeletal stage. watches over. Apart from school-children. the only real sign of life is a tank with a piranha in it. To complement the natural history section. there's an archaeological one which houses an impressive collection of human skulls and jaw-bones to prove how primitive man was (and I mean ‘man'). A genteel amble around this collection. and I found myself in what was the Keep reading a sign. ‘Put money in the well‘ it said. I couldn't see one. Then I noticed the grid l was standing on. Only a drop ofseveral hundred feet below.
The city has the largest permanent market in Europe. It is constructed on a slope. So as you wander from
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stall to stall. you start feeling sea-sick. The stall-holders have .heard it all before and. feigning no knowledge of the tilt. wise-crack about how you‘ve had too much to drink.
Once you’ve done the Cathedral and its Close (ﬂooded with French students). the Castle Museum. the market. the quaint specialist shops-selling exclusively mustard. dried ﬂowers. baskets. or tea and coffee—seaside resorts are very accessible from Norwich. Cromer is reputed to be the nicest. although there's also Sherringham and (ireat Yarmouth to consider. I opted for the latter. and spent a morning watching sticks of rock being made, jellied eels being consumed and tat being sold. The long sandy beach was enticing. but. in the pouring rain. Do-Nuts. Candy Floss and Discount Boxer shorts were pulling the crowds. To the tune of imitation Abba. I might add.
Back in clean. compact Norwich. a riverboat cruise sailed along the Wensum. and. while Great Yarmouth smelt of fish. a whiff of chocolate hung over Norwich. That. I suspect. says it all.
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'l‘he list 32 July ~ 4 August 1988 53