The Road goes ever on and on
Out from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone.
Let others follow, if they can!

J R R Tolkien

Fields, hedgerows, woods and villages come and go over time, but roads remain. The coming of motor transport has led to ironing out of some of the more tortuous curves, and the creation of motorways, but most roads are still largely unchanged. Watling street may no longer be one of the principal routes in the land, but it still possible to follow its course by car, much of it along the A2 & A5 roads.

We think of these roads as Roman, but many of them go back much further than Roman times. Quite how old these roads are cannot be known, but many must go back to the first inhabitants of Britain. Once a road is established it is very hard to reroute it. Only in the past fifty years have attempts been made to iron out the most dangerous bends, and these have resulted in very minor changes. New roads have built but these only duplicate old roads; very few have other constructions or farmland introduced where once was a highway.

Roads changed in the 20th century, but at first the coming of the motor car did not make travel any more dangerous. In 1861 the Locomotive Act had limited the speed of road conveyances (i.e. steam traction engines) to 10 mph. In 1865 this was reduced to 4mph in the country and 2mph in town. Obviously these very low speeds did not apply to horses, who could still trot or even gallop at up to 30mph. Also a man bearing a red flag had to walk 60 yards ahead of the traction engine. In 1896 the speed limit was raised to 14mph and to 20mph in 1903. By then the need for an escort had also been removed –  a man could not walk that fast. The roads were becoming more dangerous, but worse was to come. In 1931 the speed limit was abolished altogether. In under 40 years it had risen from under 5mph to as fast as you could crank your car up to. This was a huge turn about, and the corresponding road casualties rose into the thousands.

This was still the state of affairs when I learnt to drive, and I was briefly allowed to drive with out limit as to speed. It wasn’t as bad as it sounded, because few cars would do much more than 70 anyway, but by the end of the 1960s Barbara Castle had introduced the 70 limit. The stretch of road outside our house at the time was a mile of dead straight highway and the mechanics from the Jaguar garage in the city used drive out to test their cars. Jaguars were one of the few cars that would easily exceed 70mph!



I have a request from reader about the Tower at Tower Hill. These are emails.

Hi Joe,

I just wanted to thank you for your posts online about Costessey, etc. I moved into a brand new bungalow (No.1 Horseshoe Close, costing £3,800!) in New Costessey with my parents when my father was posted to Norwich in the winter of 1960/61. He was later posted back to Poole, Dorset (my birthplace) at the end of 1970, but my formative childhood (4-14) was spent in Norwich and I knew every inch of the area around our house. This included exploring the ruins of Costessey Hall (in the middle of nowhere in those days) and it was while looking this up that I found your site – I never realised that the Hall had ever been this big! I am currently scanning in slides taken by my parents at the time; mostly of our house, but some of us in the surrounding areas (i.e. fields deep in snow!)

I have not been back to the area since leaving in 1970, and it is shocking to realise how much has changed since then; I am struggling to recognise some parts as the entire landscape has been altered by the new bypass, etc. I see that you are at Taverham, and that was as far as I used to cycle to fish in the lakes (I knew them as Taverham Pits, but I see that they are Costessey Pits now!) I started school at Beaumont Rd Infants, then did four years at Three Mile Lane before going on to the County Grammar School / Wymondham College for another four years, before being forced to relocate to Poole in 1971. I even recall being taught by a ‘Mr Anderson’ – your cousin David!

So many memories, from all those years ago! Just one last thing that you may be able to help me with? When exploring Costessey Hall, I remember seeing this mysterious tower in the trees on the skyline to the NW, with a broken flagpole(?) – presumably at ‘Tower Hill’. What was this, and does anything remain today? As I was just a small kid on a bike, it lay beyond my limited range and it has always intrigued me!

Many thanks for your interesting pages, which I will continue to explore further in the days to come.

Nigel Bryant]

This was my reply.

Dear Nigel,
I love your memories of Costessey.. As you say it has changed greatly, even in the  thirty years since I lived there. The tower was almost all that remains of Costessey Hall after WW2. It still exists. Joe

His reply: Dear Joe,
Many thanks for your prompt response; much appreciated, and I’m glad that you enjoyed my recollections of Costessey. However, my last query didn’t refer to Costessey Hall; I was well aware of that and have seen photos of the remaining belfry tower in the golf course. The tower that I recall was about a mile away, to the NW, on top of some high ground in the area now called Tower Hill. I cannot find any reference to the original building anywhere, which I found surprising. I just wish that I had investigated it properly, 50+ years ago!

I can now answer this question, thanks to Ernest Gage’s 2002 book COSTESSEY, A Look into the Past. I quote: Standing high on TOWER HILL…was the tall circular brick tower, built by Sir William Jerningham in 1791, it had two floors with an observation at the top, from which extensive views as far as Norwich could be obtained. The tower remained… until its condition became very dangerous and was finally demolished in January 1972.

There is an illustration of the tower on page 252 of Gage’s book.

If anyone has any memories of this tower please email me at the address below


I received my Corona virus vaccine jab in the first week in February. It has been remarkably quick and efficient for the UK to roll out the vaccine to over 15 million recipients in a matter of weeks. I know the vaccine must be working because it has been playing havoc with my blood sugar levels, which as a diabetic I have to measure daily. Vaccination is a English invention, which goes back over 200 years, to the eighteenth century. It was the first real piece of modern medicine to be introduced, and its long term efficacy is shown by the fact that the term is still universally used.


Edward Jenner is the name we have to thank for the discovery of vaccination. He was born into the family of the Vicar of Berkeley in Gloucestershire, in 1749. He was apprenticed to a surgeon, and after a period of study in London he returned to Berkeley. He was a successful physician and a man of many parts; he it was who first wrote of the baby cuckoo pushing its host’s chick out of the nest.

It was known that milkmaids were immune to smallpox, and this was thought to be through their exposure to cowpox, a similar disease but less virulent. Cowpox has given us the word vaccination, from vaccinae, the Latin adjective meaning cow like. The French word for a cow (vache, from the same root) may be better known to most people. It was Jenner who speculated that the pus from the cowpox blister could be used to spread the infection, and so spread immunity to smallpox. On the 14th of May 1796 he tested his hunch by putting the pus of a cowpox blister from the hand of Sarah Neimes, a milkmaid, onto the skin of James Phipps, the 8 year old son of his gardener. We even know the name of the cow who gave Sarah cowpox (she was called Blossom). So far so good. The crucial part of the experiment came when a smallpox scab was rubbed onto a scratch on the boys arm. (This seems a drastic part of the procedure but it was the normal method of inoculation at the time.) No infection resulted. After over twenty similar experiments (including one on his young son) he published the conclusions of his researches in 1798, and the use of vaccination rapidly spread throughout Europe and America. A grateful nation voted a large sum to Jenner in recognition of his discovery.

I myself was vaccinated against smallpox in very much the same way as James Phipps was almost two hundred years before. We were lined up at school and Dr Eliot came down the line and scratched our arms; there was no asking us whether we wanted to be vaccinated or not. This was in 1960, and for many years you could see the scar where my cowpox scab had been. Over the yeas this has faded. In the 1850s smallpox vaccination had been made compulsory in Great Britain, but the lack of organisation made this measure ineffective. As result of a global effort to spread smallpox vaccination throughout the world it was confirmed in 1980 that the disease had been eradicated. There is now no reason to vaccinate against smallpox, but the concept of vaccination against all manner of other diseases goes from strength to strength.




The Binocular Magnifier my father designed; I was busy making them on my birthday.

(It will not have escaped your notice that I was a Valentines Day baby. Contrary to the immediate reaction of most people along the lines of ‘Oh how nice’ this has been nothing but a trial to me all my life; imagine trying to go out for a quiet birthday meal on Valentines Day!)


It was a pleasant day with some sun. A parcel from Aunt Peggy and Uncle Arthur arrived by post. It contained a pair of gardening gloves, my birthday present from them. For breakfast I had porridge, followed by bacon, egg and mushrooms. I would have taken both dogs out for a walk, but Suki would not come, so I only took Fido. Dad and I took him up to Norwich with us later. There were five orders for magnifiers by first post, so there was a lot of work to do, but first I got some milk and made us each a cup of tea. I made up a batch of headbands and filed some plastic head rests ready for polishing. Versators – the name given to these magnifiers – were selling very well, and as we sold most of them for the full retail price we were doing alright. In fact we were doing very well.  By August we were selling up to 20 a day. We had recently bought a freezer and a dishwasher, both highly uncommon pieces of kit in 1977. 

I phone up two of our suppliers to remind them that we were awaiting their deliveries. Came home via Dunston Common to walk the dog Fido, and then the Red Lion in Stoke for a drink. For lunch we had soup, brie and rhubarb. Suki had woken up by then, so we took both dogs to Whitlingham, where they had a happy time. Suki hunted rabbits in the bushes and both dogs went in  the river for a dip. 

GERRY SAYER on his retirement in 1993.

We called at the works to do some business on the way back to work. I must say a word or two about ‘the works’. This small factory had been built by my father in the lattec1940s, when the health service started. At first all spectacle lenses were free to the customer, and this had produced an almost insatiable demand, which my Dad did his best to try and fill. This obviously could not go on, and when the government imposed a charge the demand dried up overnight. My father had to sell the works to a more established optical manufacturer called Culvers. He continued to do all his lens business through Culvers, and Gerry Sayer was the resident manager at the works. It was in Hall Road, near the Ring Road. The site is now a car park for Aldi and the other retailers on the park.

We returned to 29 Surrey Street (our business  premises) by way of the works. Gerry let us have a piece of 6mm acetate.  We had arranged for a sheet of 4mm acetate to be sent from London by post, but this piece of 6mm would do for now. We normally made our magnifiers from 4mm black acetate, but obviously having run out of 4mm. we were experimenting with 6mm. it shows you how busy we had been, running out of supplies. I made up seven fronts from the thicker acetate sheet; they look rather strange to our eyes, but they will do. At ten past four I left Dad assembling magnifiers and went to Bayliss Wright to buy an air brush – made by Sprite. It is my birthday present from my father, but it was something I never used. At twenty to five I went home to collect Mum and take her to Mr Warr in Earlham Road. He was her chiropodist and it was time to have her feet done. While she was there I took the dogs to Earlham park. Then I took Mum home before returning to the city.

Collected Dad at six o’clock and we left the post at the sorting office; home for dinner that Mum had left in the oven while she had her feet done. We had chicken and orange cake, made with a home grown orange! Mum was rather cold and tired in the evening. 




I became interested in solving crosswords as a teenager, through my father’s example. He took The Times, and together we would struggle with the clues on the back page. The cryptic crossword had been invented by Adrian Bell for The Times in 1930. The Daily Telegraph had stolen a march on The Times and had been attracting readers by publishing a daily crossword. The response of The Times was to do likewise. Adrian Bell’s father suggested to the editor that his son should compile a crossword for The Times. This was a bold move. His father was a journalist, but Adrian was working on the land as a farmer in Suffolk. He had never attempted to solve a crossword, let alone to write one, and had just ten days before the first one was to be published. Moreover, the cryptic style of clue writing was his own invention. Over the next fifty years he compiled some five thousand cryptic crosswords all of them published in the paper. Although he loved farming, he was always a writer too, having published his first book Corduroy (a best seller on country life) in 1930, and wrote a regular column in the Eastern Daily Press which my parents always enjoyed.

For our part, from filling in one or two clues my father and I slowly advanced in our ability, until we eventually completed a whole crossword! This had to done in a day, before the solution was published on the following day. This solving of a crossword is not as hard as it sounds, because by their very nature they get easier the further you go. This is because the interlocking letters give you more specific options to fill in. We regularly completed the crossword, not every day but perhaps two or three times a week. Beware the cryptic crossword! It is addictive, and it took us a long time to solve. The real experts can complete a puzzle in less than fifteen minutes, but we never approached this speed.

At one stage of my life I moved on to compiling my own crosswords. At the time I was writing a daily quiz for the local paper, and thought crosswords were a extra string to my bow. I did several crosswords, but I never found a regular outlet for them, unlike my quizzes. I am sure I would have done so in the end, but I really did not enjoy compiling them. In the end I loathed writing quizzes even more; for me they are nothing but a string of pointless knowledge, unconnected and meaningless. I no longer have anything to do with either quizzes or crosswords. I am not an Adrian Bell, either as a farmer or a writer.





St Peter Hungate is a redundant church in Princes Street, Norwich. With a tiny parish (taking in just the top of Elm Hill and half of Princes Street) it was one of the first Norwich churches to be declared redundant. From 1936 until 1995 it was the Norwich museum of ecclesiastical art. It was a great resource in Norfolk, and as far as I am aware unique in this country; other museums hold collections of church art, but none are devoted to church items and nothing else.

As the church stands today it is of fifteenth century workmanship, though records go back much further then that. With squared and galleted flint it was my favourite among the museums of Norwich, and often (though not often enough) I would drop in for half an hour or so. The fact that entry was free may have had something to do with this. There I would immerse myself in the artistic world of the middle ages. It has been closed now for nearly thirty years, and the exhibits have been locked away in the cellars of the Castle Museum, visible to no one. At least we are lucky that the structure of the church is intact, as there was talk of demolishing it in the early twentieth century.

Among the artefacts of a decorative nature there was also a display of manuscripts and writings made by Norfolk based scribes. Books of Hours and Breviaries, all beautifully written on parchment, bore witness to the religious life of Catholic England. A part of Wycliffe’s Bible was here, recalling how popular this proto-Protestant was among the people of East Anglia. His followers – the Lollards – were a great source of distraction to the authorities in the fifteenth century. You can still see the area known as Lollards pit outside Norwich city walls. This was where many were burnt at the stake as heretics. Also kept in the collection was a first printed edition of Julian of Norwich’s Revelations of Divine Love, of 1670. This she wrote some three hundred years before that.

The collection of musical instruments from Norfolk churches recalls the eighteenth century, when many country churches did not have an organ, and so local musicians were enrolled to play in small bands for church services. A serpent – a wind instrument with a curly snake-like shape – was among the instruments on display; so to was an ancient three string bass, of particular interest to me as a keen double bass player at the time. The bells which stood by the north door were all made in Norwich; bells are particularly sad when standing mute, a factor that is not so noticeable among musical instruments.

Of the wood carvings, the roof bosses, angels and spandrels were generally in good repair, while the alabaster carvings from lower down in the churches were almost all fragmentary. This was because the roof timbers were out of reach of the Puritan iconoclasts, while the lower objects of devotion were easy prey. Rood screens too were often the objects of desecration, especially the painted lower panels; but some survived, particularly in more out of the way rural parishes. An examples of this artistry, from All Saints church in Lessingham, was displayed in a case in the nave. This picture below is of St Thomas, one of a number of panels from that set; how sad that these paintings are locked away from public view. I could say more about the powerful but insensitive morons who destroyed this gem, but you can guess what my opinions of them are




The line to Aldeburgh opened in 1860, having been built as far as the town of Leiston one year earlier. At Leiston a branch connected with the traction engine works Garretts, a major employer in the town and the principal reason for building the line. This works line was operated by horses until 1929, when the steam locomotive Sirapite was purchased. Serapite was built in 1906 by Aveling and Porter for Gypsum Mines Ltd in Sussex. It was used until 1962 when it was acquired by Sir Richard Macalpine for his collection of locomotives.

A part of this line to the Long Shop Museum (the former Garrett works) has now been relaid, and Serapite is again in Leiston, part of the Museum collection. This short stretch of line recently hosted a diesel shunter which operated along its curtailed length; it no longer has a physical connection with the Network Rail line at Leiston. Leiston was the most important station on the line (more so than the terminus at Aldeburgh) and it remains in use as far as that town.

These five miles of track are employed to serve the nuclear power station, Sizewell ‘B’. With the proposal to divert much of the material for the new power station (Sizewell ‘C’) from road to rail this will be much more heavily used in future (if) when Sizewell ‘C’ is built. Whatever the officials say, this will go ahead, as the line has already been upgraded to concrete sleepers and welded rail i.e. modern track. This would not have been done if Network Rail were not convinced the line would shortly be needed for heavy use. This happened within the last twelve months, so it is plainly all systems go on the line.


When the line meets the East Suffolk line the trains used to go half a mile along the mainline to Saxmundham station. This is where passenger services from Aldeburgh terminate until 1966, when the last 3.5 miles closed permanently and the remainder lost its passenger service. In 2005 the council mooted the possibility of reintroducing an hourly train service from Leiston to Saxmundham. This would have been similar to the train service on the Stourbridge branch in the West Midlands. That short section is operated by the flywheel powered Parry People Mover. At the time it was anticipated that all nuclear material would have been removed from Sizewell ‘A’ by 2012, and all freight traffic along the line would therefore cease. Nothing came of the Suffolk County Council proposal, and the future of the freight usage of the line looks very different today. Personally I think it is great shame that Leiston does not have a passenger railway service. Its size and the presence of a track through the town suggest that it should.

The track to Aldeburgh was taken up in the year following closure and the railway station was demolished in 1975. The site is now a roundabout. The station had a locomotive based there in the days of steam with an engine shed to house it. A certain amount of goods traffic went to the town, although not as much as was handled at Leiston. By the end all services to Aldeburgh were by diesel multiple unit, the goods traffic having been discontinued in 1964.

So far I have not mentioned the only other station on the line, that at Thorpeness. This was no more than a Halt, opened in the ominous year of 1914, to serve the seaside resort that been growing over the previous decades. No goods traffic was handled here, and the Halt was unstaffed. The former railway line here is now a footpath, and the platform is still in existence, though overgrown with vegetation.




Artificial Intelligence may one day be able to run our lives for us, but it is a long way from doing so as things are today. It apparently is used widely in business, but allow me to question just how intelligent it is. I have just had an advert pop up on my computer screen, telling me that anyone born in Ipswich between 1953 and 1979, with no life insurance, needs to read more. This is obviously AI at work, but unfortunately it has got it nearly all wrong; it is obviously trying, but in almost every respect it has gone slightly awry. I wasn’t born in Ipswich but in Norwich, and I wasn’t born between those years either, although they are not completely outside the ball park; apart from that they have got it spot on! That just leaves my financial history, and it is true that I haven’t got any life insurance, but I cannot see that at my age and with ho dependents I cannot see that it would benefit anyone but the insurance company. It might well be a good little earner for the insurance company that placed the ad, but it is just a pity that they could not have come a little closer to reality.

I have been getting quite cross with all these attempts to guess what I am thinking.  I only have to make a passing reference to a combine harvester (let us say) and I am immediately bombarded with adverts for agricultural machinery. I have no involvement with farming, beyond a passing interest; that is obviously too sophisticated a fact for AI to understand, although all you mere mortals seem to have no problem with the idea. It really ought to amuse me, because these attempts resemble nothing more than the first fumbling words of a rather dumb two-year old, but I am exasperated by AI nonetheless. Bing, the Microsoft search engine, is no longer content merely to search for what I want; it makes unasked for and unwarranted suggestions instead. Am I interested in computer games or comic book heroes? No. Do I want to learn more about the Milky Way? Not particularly. Am I thinking of going to Patagonia? Not at present; and so it goes on. It is also impossible to avoid these intrusions, unless I completely remove Bing from my computer, and I am told this would be an unwise thing to do because it handles much of the basic software on my computer. This is with Windows, but Apple is as bad, in its own way.

These observations about computer gaming etc. are far from intelligent ones, and they don’t even begin to scratch the surface of AI. I can see that as it makes its slow progress towards some kind of awareness, AI will become slightly less annoying. However, I cannot ever see a time when an algorithm will be able to detect irony for example; yet anyone who is not a complete moron can tell when I am using sarcasm and when I am voicing straight forward opinions. It could be the tone of voice that I am using,  but even when I am writing the meaning is clear enough for most people. You might need a knowledge of my previous opinions, sometimes going back decades, to pick up this kind of sophisticated speech, but that is part of life. Good luck with that one, you AI geeks.

So I am not really worried that computers are going to take over the world anytime soon. We may have to use more elliptical kinds of speech in order to outwit the computer, but wit is the operative word. I am not even sure myself what makes the difference between a witty saying and a dull one, and any attempt to explain this robs the epithet of all wit anyway. I can imagine a computer program ploughing through reams of stuff to come up with a witty saying, only to end up with a completely wooden one. And even if it appeared witty to me, it could well not do so to you. The listener as well as the speaker is important in this respect; although people can easily get their heads round this, I cannot even begin to conceive of how a computer would get over that one. AI stands for Artificial Intelligence? Artificial Incomprehension might be a better term to use!




One of the earliest of my ancestors that I have been able to discover is Miles Rivett, who was born in 1655 in Shipdam. None live there now, but within living memory there were still Rivetts in that central Norfolk village. Another long standing East Anglian name is Peachey. George Peachey (one of my 7th great-grandfathers) was born in 1662 in Mildenhall, Suffolk. Over the years the family moved the few miles to Lakenheath, where my grandmother was born in 1887.

The sixteenth century market cross in Mildenhall would have been well known to George Peachey.

Other ancestors come from further afield. Another seventh great-grandfather, Michael Rutter, was born in Gloucester in 1620. Great-great-grandmother Sallie Oliver was born in St Austell in Cornwall in 1825. My namesake, great-great-grandfather Joseph Mason, was born in Staffordshire in 1815. He was a tailor. The most distant relative (though not the oldest) I am able to name was William Hine, who was my 8th great-grandfather. Occasionally we get a hint of more about these people. William Jones was born in Ludgershall, Buckinghamshire in 1694 – and a later William Jones spent his old age as parish clerk at St Mary’s church, so he was obviously able to read and write. This was a far from widespread achievement in those distant days. Ludgershall is a small village with only one claim to fame; John Wycliffe, best known for his translation of the Bible from Latin into English, was Vicar of Ludgershall from 1368 until 1374. It is 13 miles from Oxford, where he had important duties to perform during the week, so it is likely that he only went there at weekends to hold Sunday services.

St Mary the Virgin, Ludgershall, Buckinghamshire; William Jones, Parish Clerk, 1840.

By the 1870s photography had advanced to such a state of development that it became available to all members of society, even the poorest ones. Thus I begin to know what my ancestors looked like. The taking of a photograph was a major performance in the nineteenth century; it involved a large wooden camera, glass plate negatives, a black hood to time the exposure (no shutters) and a substantial tripod. No wonder it was reserved for special occasions. An early photograph of an ancestor is of Susannah Jones, photographed in France in 1877, where she was working in service to an English couple.


On the other side of the family, my great-grandmother Rebecca Atthow was photographed shortly after 1880. She was born in West Bradenham, a village not far outside Dereham. Who is the oldest ancestor of whom I can show you a picture? It must be my great-great-grandfather, John Atthow (Rebecca’s Dad), born in Beeston in central Norfolk in the year 1813. To give you an idea of how long ago this was, the Napoleonic War was still raging, and George the Third was on the throne. The prize-fighter Jem Mace (later the first World Champion boxer) was born in the same village in 1831, when John Atthow was already grown up. John Atthow must have been ambitious, as he became a fairly prosperous man – maybe that was how he came to have a photograph taken in the middle of the 19th century. By 1850 he was already a pig dealer, and ten years later he had a large farm with several workers; he died young, before he was fifty years old, in 1862.

JOHN ATTHOW, my great-great-grandfather, some time in the 1850s.

My great-grandfather Charles Mason was married in 1879. His wedding to Rebecca Buxton was also captured on film. Charles was born in Staffordshire, but travelled to Norfolk to marry my great-grandmother, whom he had met in Staffordshire, whither she had gone to work in service. Charles must have liked working with animals because his first job after moving to Norfolk was as kennelman to a pack of hounds. He never owned a dog himself, because in those days you needed a dog licence. This cost 37p when it was abolished in 1987, which was a ridiculously small amount, but when Charles was a young man it already cost seven shillings and sixpence (371/2p). This was most of his weekly wage, so dog ownership was not an option for the working class before the twentieth century. After a period as a kennelman Charles Mason got a job with Colmans of Norwich where he was responsible for looking after their horses; still working with animals!

REBECCA MASON (nee Buxton).

The occupations of this generation of my ancestors varied from baker (William Rutter of Stradbroke, my great grandfather) to carpenter (Richard Moore, my great great grandfather). Henry Rivett started his career as a carpenter, but starting with a few acres, he ended as a farmer, in which employment his descendants have continued. Phipp Peachey was a warrener, which occupation had been followed by his ancestors since records began. There wasn’t much else to do on the sandy soil in Lakenheath. Other predecessors were gamekeepers, wheelwrights and a coachbuilder.


We are coming to my grandparents’ generation. Grandma (Constance Rutter) was born in 1876; she died at 90, in 1966. Nanny was born in 1887 and died in 1965. My grandfathers both predeceased my birth; William Mason died in road accident in 1945, and Charles Rivett of heart attack in 1946.




william shakespeare

Although I have acted in several of his plays (as a schoolboy) and have read or watched many others, I do not go out of my way to experience his dramas. This is not because I find his plays particularly difficult or demanding; though some have a reputation for being complex and ambiguous. I must concede that his plays are rather good, but I tend not watch plays in general. It must be that I am a child of my time, and find that sitting through a whole performance of two or three hours is rather too much for me. (Musicals and even operettas I can take, it must be the jolly tunes that keep me occupied,) At least when reading a book I can put it down at any time.

His poetry however is available in much more digestible portions, and these I find more to my taste. This is perhaps one of the best known of Shakespeare’s sonnets. At just fourteen lines long this cannot be too long for anybody.

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature’s changing course, untrimmed;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st,
Nor shall death brag thou wand’rest in his shade,
When in eternal lines to Time thou grow’st.
    So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
    So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

There is no hint that Shakespeare ever travelled to Norwich, though it is likely he performed in Kings Lynn. One of his actors however is famed for his of Morris dancing from London to Norwich in the year 1600. This was Will Kempe, a well loved clown in various troupes, including Shakespeare’s. He created the roles of Dogberry in Much Ado About Nothing, Peter in Romeo and Juliet, and possibly Falstaff too. He was apparently unable to act a part without improvising along the way, and this may have irritated the great playwright. It was after leaving Shakespeare’s men that he undertook his epic dance. He later published a book of his feat, entitled the ‘Nine Days Wonder’, although in fact it took him over three weeks to accomplish. He was joined on the road through Essex by all comers, including numerous pretty girls. There is some confusion about whether he first entered the city by St Giles’ Gate or St Stephen’s Gate, but there seems agreement that he ended his dancing by jumping the churchyard wall to St John Maddermarket.