BLAKENEY MUD

Autobiography 32

This picture dates from 1969 when all the boats you can see are built of wood. The same view today could well show all the boats made of plastic

This picture dates from 1969 when all the boats you can see are built of wood. The same view today could well show all the boats made of plastic.

The mud in this picture is in fact Morston mud, but as Blakeney and Morston are two sides of the same coin (the coin being Blakeney Harbour) I think the mud is in all respects the same. The reason why it has to be Blakeney mud at the head of this article is that BLAKENEY MUD was the name of the chocolate blancmange we often had as a desert for lunch at Kenwyn. I have to explain a few facts to you before I continue; KENWYN was the house at Gresham’s prep school where we all ate. Although I was at Crossways (the other house of two) as a boarder, we had all our meals in Kenwyn dining hall. I was in the prep school from 1959 to 1963.

Before I go into the pleasures of playing in the mud at Blakeney let me first go a little further into the eating arrangements of us in the Junior School. Breakfast always began with a bowl of porridge (sometimes smooth but normally lumpy) in winter; in summer this was replaced by a bowl of cornflakes. Then cooked part of the meal was equally traditional; a plate of fried bacon, a sausage, a kipper or a rasher of bacon; eggs came as scrambled, fried, poached or boiled. A popular choice as far as the cook was concerned was tinned tomatoes on toast; but the minute you added the tomato juice to the toast it became a soggy mass. This breakfast was served up every weekday except Wednesday, when the cooked breakfast was replaced by a banana and a newly baked white bread roll. There must have been other nicknames for foods besides Blakeney mud, but the only other one I remember concerns ‘fourses’, which was the one meal (or rather snack) of the day which was served in Crossways. It only consisted of a tray of buns, eating apples and suchlike, so even lacking a kitchen this wasn’t hard to arrange. Once a week (usually Mondays) we were served bread and margarine, which went by the appellation ‘concrete and candle grease’. This we toasted by the Quiet Room fire on winter evenings. Simple toasting forks were made in the Scruff Shacks (the teaching workshop) from twisted wire. The margarine with which it was spread before we got it made the result a smokey kind of fried bread.

Dinner (it was not called lunch) was served at five past one and was the main meal of the day. Tea was at six. Tea was a cooked meal, but something simple like cheese or sardines on toast followed by bread and jam. We also had a very large brown enamel teapot at the head of the table from which the prefect served everybody a mug of tea. The main meal of the day  was more substantial, something like mashed potato, cabbage and a stew followed by prunes and custard. Nothing fancy most of the time but after our annual outing to Blakeney we would return to a huge bowl of winkles; to eat them we were each provided with a pin, a necessary accessory. Winkles aren’t fancy but they are certainly unusual. I have never had any except those we were given at school, and I have never seen any for sale, even at the shellfish stall at Wells quayside. Not that we had actually caught any winkles on our day out. We did however pick bits of samfer from the creeks which we ate raw. Samfer (or more respectably spelt samphire) is in fact not samphire at all. That is a plant which grows on the cliffs of Pembrokeshire. East Anglian samfer is really glasswort, a marsh plant that grows in other parts of the country but is (or was) only eaten in Norfolk. Even in Suffolk it was not served up with relish as it was in Norfolk, although it grows there. It has now been discovered by weekenders from London who inhabit places like Burnham Market and Brancaster. They have made it into an expensive luxury whereas it used to be a cheap delicacy known only to us Norfolk dumplings. To return to Blakeney mud; blancmange is not a word used today. This chocolate blancmange was served hot out of a aluminium jug. The really nice bit was the vanilla ice cream served with it. The contrast of the hot chocolate and cold ice cream was an exceptional piece of luxury in our diet of  basic food.

Blakeney mud was brown and glutinous, whether you are talking about the chocolate sauce or the estuarine deposit. We knew all about Blakeney as that was our local seaside where we went as a whole school once a year, and had a glorious summer’s day getting covered from head to toe in Blakeney’s real mud. The day must have been in July, and we must have gone the five miles or so by coach, but we were all far too excited by the coming frolics to remember that. Imagine about 75 boys, all between the ages of  8 and 13 running wild at the seaside. There were only 3 adults in charge, so it is just as well that the area was open and flat, and cur off from the rest of the world by dykes. There were no distractions like ice cream sellers, just acres of mud.

JOSEPH MASON

joemasonspage@gmail.com

MEMORIES OF THE COUNTY OF NORFOLK 

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