Why a life living on the edge of Norfolk is so apt for me

Why a life living on the edge of Norfolk is so apt for me

Living on the edge has been my lot for the most part, ever since I tinkered with grass-stained toes in a nearby gravel pit and lured the post-war pollution outside.

A village upbringing in the heart of rural Norfolk found me lounging on misty headlands unintentionally, rather than enthusiastically digging in to impress farm electors. It looked too much like hard work out there among the cattle, crops, and weather-beaten critics of defaulting fellows.

A seven-year internment at Swaffham Grammar School led to the mutual acceptance of a “Tau diffrunt” mantra in the classroom. I decided from the age of 12 to specialize in the only two subjects I showed any appetite or aptitude for, English and History. Mentors in other fields seemed happy enough to let me graze on the fringes of mainstream education.

Over three decades of full-time employment at local newspapers and radio left me enticingly close to this area reserved for the media’s top movers and shakers. Inability to understand the basics of shorthand plus a lifelong fear of anything involving buttons, switches and wires worked against me, along with a lack of a driver’s license and occasional failings in respectful behavior.

As a football writer who gleefully rose to chronicling the varied fortunes of Norwich City amidst contrasting characters, the tough man Ron Saunders and the flamboyant John Bond, I preferred a liaison of solitary independence to the shelter of cozy servility. Growing suspicions of how professional sport would clash with ridiculous transfer fees and wages coupled with cheap celebrity standards proved all too well founded.

As a weekday radio operator always reminding stereo listeners that I was the ‘right Torkin’ in the middle, I welcomed the early freshness and freedom of a local BBC station to use words like ‘indigenous’, ‘parochial’ and was allowed to use “shoot.”

For me, the “Made in Norfolk” accumulator was empty in 1995. Recent cuts looming over Radio Norfolk’s output make a mockery of so much initial freshness and home-grown delivery.

Since then, I’ve plowed freelance furrows as a writer, broadcaster, and entertainer. Of course, “freelance” can mean existing on the periphery of pretty much everything, although for actors it’s a few steps further than “just resting” and “thinking about my thoughts.” Future” for superfluous Hunnycart drivers,

I’ve lingered on the fringes of show business, not least as the soulful lead singer of Captain Boyton’s Benefit Band in the mid-1960s. The Norfolk Sound (often known as the Sugar Beat), created by local press personalities, is said to have reminded the Rolling Stones and the Beatles not to take success for granted. Think that worked fine.

My role as the leader of the traveling Press Gang entertainers for 25 years at village halls and other community haunts underscored the need to stay true to local culture at a time when it could so easily be stifled in bland uniforms.

In my extremely humble career as a player at Caister Cricket Club I lived meagerly on the edge of an anxious crease, laughing at any batsman naïve enough to miss one of my straight spinners and lingering in the outfield, listening to the silence and fearing a Steegler, who came up to me.

So where has all this flirting with the real things in life taken me? Still live on the edge of Cromer next to the Old German Sea. That’s what I call the North Sea to invoke an air of reverence in these image-conscious days. We moved the Skipper family headquarters here almost 35 years ago.

Perhaps it’s the perfect spot for someone not quite sure how best to counter the fear that Norfolk might be going anywhere else. Cromer is perhaps a microcosm of a county trying to marry the best of the old without caring for the new. Although I’ve lived in Henry Bloggs’ dominion for so long, I don’t know which bank we’re headed for.

This deep uneasiness, occasionally spiced with outbursts of anger, has shaped much of my writing and public speaking over the past few years, although a valuable sense of Norfolk humor keeps pulling me from the abyss of utter despair.

I admit that I gave away a lot of evidence to reinforce my reputation as someone who welcomes progress as long as it doesn’t change anything. However, I constantly celebrate some of Norfolk’s gloriously enduring qualities, particularly those displayed by colorful and life-enhancing characters that are still encountered along the way, mostly in trend-resistant corners of an old empire where they tend to thrive.

Even the most ardent prophets of recovery must recognize and respect these traditional virtues for what they are—true embodiments of the mantra “dew diffrunt” that so many applaud while too few remain true to the faith.

Living on the edge brings coastal hazards like flooding, erosion and sluggish winds that pass right through you, along with man-made pressures from booming tourism, rising numbers of second homes and the loss of character and cohesion of the local community.

Despite all that, there’s little quite like talking to yourself on a hilarious January day at the end of Cromer Pier and blaming Sheringham for sending choppy waters and the rest of Norfolk down for taking up too much space the rest of the year has.

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