Thursday, 27 August 2015

Pilgrim's Progress

Norfolk is a wonderful county for cycling as it still possesses enough small lanes and by-ways to keep one away from the dreaded main roads and rat-runs where many drivers of German saloon cars appear to view cyclists as prey. It can be a bit challenging working out routes that avoid the dangerous roads and dual carriageways (or motorways as we Norfolk folk refer to them) but it does lead to some serendipitous discoveries of charming rural hamlets.

One thing I do keep discovering, though, is the wonderful rich treasure of Norfolk's Churches and I've decided to make a habit of taking pictures of them on my rural cycle rambles to show the variety of these often 1000 year old buildings that are tucked away, often in the middle of nowhere. There are over 800 Churches in Norfolk and I'm indebted to the incredible resource of and the assiduous work of Simon Knott for the ability to simply spot any Church and look up a well written history.

Here's my first three from a recent trip to Watton:

St Botolph, Stow Bedon:

Stow Bedon is not so much a village as two very small hamlets a mile or so apart, and cycling between them I came across this little gem. Its isolation was presumably less obvious when Stow Bedon was more densely populated but it stands proud on a gentle rolling hill. Some parts date back to the 14th Century but during World War 2 a German bomber returning from the Midlands dropped spare bombs alongside and it lay in ruins. Simon Knott points out that its surprising post-war renovation may have been prompted by the loss of 4 medieval Churches to the adjacent Stanford Battle Area. 

All Saints Rocklands

Rocklands is another of those odd groups of villages in the area and spread over several square miles. About half a mile from the nearest habitation, atop a hill and with an air of strange isolation is All Saints Church. It looks well tended and offers a sharp contrast to some of the other Rockland churches which are in ruins.

Holy Cross, Caston

Caston is a much more cohesive village than those surrounding, and boasts a school and the Red Lion Pub. The Church of the Holy Cross is visible from a mile or so away and stands on the village green but right next to a fully operational cattle farm on the other side. The road goes past the unusual West entrance door in ogee-arch shape.

Monday, 24 August 2015

Why Algebra?

Here's a little poser for you:

No sorry, I meant this poser:

Coldplay  - Ed Sheeran =  Annie Lennox

(It's easier than Mike's Mystery Objects)

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

If we only had Time....

I love a good old Rockumentary on BBC4.

An hour or so of wizenened or bottoxed old heads from the 60's, 70's or 80's reminiscing about the way Albums were developed and recorded is bliss to me, particularly if there are a few "blimey I thought he died 20 years ago" moments. They always wear ludicrously inappropriate headgear to conceal their expanded foreheads as they reveal the petty squabbles and jealousies which drove them as twenty three year olds. The most appealing thing to me is always the random links where timelines cross over and you suddenly see, for example, a clip of Herman's Hermit Peter Noone singing "Henery The Eighth" with the cool college band "The Lovin' Spoonful".

One subject that has not yet been covered but would make a terrific programme is the story of Time. It is packed full of seemingly random juxtapositions and crossovers.

April 1986, almost a year after Live Aid, saw the London premier of "Time" the Musical, the story of a Mr Chris Wilder who is transported (with his backup singers and band ) from a concert to the High Court of the Universe in Andromeda Galaxy. It was written by 1960's London drummer-turned-entrepreneur Dave Clark:

And who was to be cast in the lead role of this multi-media extravaganza? Why step forward Mr Harry Rodger Webb, otherwise know as heartthrob pop pixie and Mike Read loookalike Cliff Richard.

This amazingly overblown production with spectacular lighting sets by John Napier and a giant hologram opened at the Dominion Theatre in London to mixed reviews. My favourite is from the New York Times:

"If present trends go on, John Napier and his team will doubtless one day find themselves re-creating the entire state of Iowa for a rock musical about the Little Red Hen, or reconstructing the Alps for one about Heidi; but until then Time can claim it has provided the most sensational contrast between mountainous spectacle and molehill content the musical theatergoer has seen."

Cliff was later replaced by US Teenage hero David Cassidy but he released one of the songs from Time as a single. "She's So Beautiful" only got to number 17 in the UK Charts in 1985 but that may have been because the video had been banned by the BBC. This must be the first time the words "Cliff Richard" and "banned" have appeared in the same sentence (apart from, of course, in my house).

I'm indebted to my brother for unearthing this banned video which was directed by the shock-meister himself Mr Ken Russell. No that isn't a typo - Ken Russell made the video of this saccharine and insipid throwaway pop tune and it was banned by the BBC. In an interview with Garageland Ken himself explains why:

"He was also supposed to direct Cliff Richard in Summer Holiday, an unlikely Russell film. ‘I withdrew because I couldn’t get on with the composers. I did end up working with Cliff Richard though, I made a video for him but it got banned by the BBC.’ Why? ‘Because I showed children playing with fire. You are not allowed to do that on the Bee…Bee…Cee’.   "

This is the video - you must watch it all the way through to get the sheer banality and stupidity of giving Ken Russell free reign and a budget of what must have been about fifty quid. Heaven knows what "Summer Holiday" would have looked like. Judge for yourselves:

Cliff went on the next year to score his first number one for a few years with a reprise of "The Young Ones" sung with, er, The Young Ones Rik Mayall, Ade Edmondson and Nigel Planer.

Who's playing with fire? Who's doing Time? Perhaps we'll never know until BBC4 commissions the story for us to enjoy.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

NFN - Three Men went to Mow

Our local auction house is a fairly typical provincial auction save for the fact that it is actually four simultaneous auctions combined. We designate them the "Posh" (Mrs Rine's forte), the "House Clearance" (my speciality), the "Old Steadings" (mainly furniture, now moved from old cattle sheds into a custom new building) and the "Meadow". If you have items to bid on in different auctions it can mean scurrying between the various locations and making dramatic late entrances frantically waving like a character in the final scenes of a Hollywood classic. "Don't shut the Savings & Loan...!!!"

The "Meadow" is the Auction house name (rather than ours) for an area of open ground outside the main building. It isn't green and in fact it should only really deserve the name "Meadow" if prefaced by the qualifying adjective "post-apocalyptic". It looks like this:

It is the most quirky and "Norfolk" part of the auction and comprises a motley and bizarrely random selection of lots which are pored over on a Thursday afternoon by a motley and bizarrely random selection of potential bidders. An Office Chair, a galvanised tank, a chimney pot, a wine rack, six 9ft telegraph poles, a lawn mower, a unicycle.... the list is like a very odd edition of the Generation Game conveyor belt where the producer has had a mind storm. Where all this stuff comes from every week is anyone's guess.

Kicking (often quite literally) over the lots are the bidders, almost exclusively male and almost exclusively over 65 years old. They normally mooch along in little gangs of three and nod knowingly to each other over a set of tools or a tray of lobelias. A large galvanised bathtub will get them quite animated and they are certainly imaging themselves in "Last of the Summer Wine" despite the lack of hills in our lovely County. When they get to a chain saw it is inevitable that one of them will pick it up, pull the start cord several times and, when it bursts into life, grin with toothless satisfaction at his admiring fellows. You just know he has no intention of buying it.

I sit nonchalantly in the open cafe area sipping a latte with an air of patronising superiority before I disappear back into the House Clearance to rifle through the contents of somebody's old drawers.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Elephant in the Room

I noticed the other day that one of my Facebook chums had changed his profile picture to this:

What was he up to I wondered? Then I saw his fabulous new video:

First Flight from mark stockdale hughes on Vimeo.

Things seem to have suddenly become proper 21st Century. Even our local Publican has got a drone, and so has the Chairman of our Parish Council (and its not one of the counsellors!) - it's going mainstream and I'm being left hovering like a late adopter!

It reminded me of one of my childhood heroes from the erudite weekly publication we used to feast on in Gravesend in the 1950's:

Yes, General Jumbo in the Beano commanded an entire remote controlled army, navy and airforce  from his wrist to fight wrong doers and n'eer do wells from 1953 to 1975 and was the envy of most boys my age. Alfie "Jumbo" Johnson remained 12 years old throughout and was supplied by the genius of Professor Carter (who one suspects may be now assisting the Police Yew Tree investigation)..

I wonder what the next childhood feature will be to become reality? I suppose we've already got Lord Snooty in the Cabinet and Bash Street Kids in several secondary schools.

Friday, 3 July 2015

Mentioned in Despatches

We have regular daily despatches from our eBay shop and for most of the year, providing the parcels aren't too enormous, I can take them on my Raleigh Silver Dream Racer.

 I'm very fortunate indeed to have one of the nicest routes in the whole Country to travel to our nearest courier shop and always find myself loving the quiet and tranquil charm of the little lanes with grass growing down the middle, Norfolk's own dual carriageways.

Some days, especially calm sunny blue-sky days in high summer, the sensation of euphoria is almost too strong. Today was one of those days.

As I glanced across the sky with its tiny white cloudlets accentuating the pastel blue all I could hear was the tweeting of birds and the buzzing of insects. I stopped pedalling and for some reason my imagination fed me the input of an RAF Spitfire roaring across the heavens in pursuit of two Messerschmitts in the summer of 1942. Perhaps it was a sort of reverse Adlestrop moment but it was more likely the fact that our neighbour Alec had been telling us at length about the village in wartime the previous evening.

Our little local airfield was built in 1943 for the United States Army Air Forces and from December that year became home to 4 squadrons of B-24 Liberator Bombers.

 Alec was at school then and remembers the village and its 5 pubs being alive with crowds of American forces fresh from California and sometimes overstaying their welcome in Fenn Street and being herded up by MP's in jeeps. He would go up to the airfield after school and they would let him sit in the Pilot's seat or play with the guns. He and his friends got to know them well but regularly they would notice an absentee and ask "where's Danny today?". "Aw he's been posted back to the States", they would reply but Alec and his friends knew different. They had seen Liberators limping home the previous night, shot to pieces and throwing flares and ordnance to get their bombs and bodies back to base. They'd seen the horrendous state of the rear gun turret strafed by burning phosphor and knew what odds Danny and his fellow rear-gunners had stacked against them.

366 US servicemen at our airfield gave their lives in the campaign to fight a German nation that had sleep-walked into allowing a small ruling elite to unleash pure evil on anyone who didn't look like or agree with them. Ring any bells today? In that case the side of good prevailed and we have our very way of life to thank those 366 young men and women for. It has been said that for evil men to accomplish their purpose it is only necessary that good men should do nothing.
Easier said than done.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Hole in the Corner Gang

I think the audacious Hatton Garden robbery by a lot of pensioners the other week seems to have started a new trend.

I found this "Wanted" posted for the "Highdale Four" aka "The Coal in the Horner Gang" who are wanted for highway robbery at various Antiques Fairs across East Anglia.

If you come across any of them, particularly little "Jack" Horner (second from left), you are advised to approach with care as they will engage you in hours of entertaining chat about matters historical which will steal all of your available time.