Molly and I took our two children to Portugal for a one week break on Wednesday 20th Jul 2005. We flew put by Ryanair from Stanstead to Opporto. We stayed at the Holiday Inn there, a dreadful place; there was no tea or coffee making facilities (very unusual as this had been standard in the UK since at least 1980 )and breakfast was charged extra (contrary to what we had been told on booking). It was the first time that any of us had been in that country (naturally the children had not been anywhere abroad without us at that age, but neither Molly nor I had been to Portugal either).
We spent a pleasant morning sampling the Port that they hold in warehouses by the Luis I Bridge across the river Douro. The youngsters were only teenagers, but we must have thought it suitable to let them each taste a glass of wine; Port is very sweet and they enjoyed it. In the past they brought the wine down the river from vineyards up country by sailing boat, and examples of these craft were still moored by the quayside.
Another expedition was to the football stadium in Porto, it was almost new built. No matches were held in July of course, but the trip was essential as far as Peter was concerned. Not so much for me, but at least I was able to see round the empty stadium! In contrast to the splendor of the new football stadium I was rather shocked to see the living conditions of the poorest Portuguese people. Several of the buildings in the deprived parts of the city of Opporto had no running water (this was under twenty years ago) and the women had to fetch it from the many public drinking fountains in the streets.
I did not appreciate the attitude of some of the Portuguese. I know we must have seemed rich tourists to the natives, who are only now just catching up with the rest of Europe after centuries of poverty, but the attempt to do us down when we caught the bus to Lisbon left as nasty taste. The journey south took as through miles of burnt countryside, which had just suffered from a forest fire. Such fires happen frequently in hot dry Portugal, and they have strict laws about lighting of flames in an attempt to prevent them.
Lisbon is a very different place from Opporto. It has the feel of a capital. We stayed at a hotel outside the city in a town called Oerias. The area the hotel was in was being developed at the time, and it was quite a way from the railway station. Moreover it was in a desolate landscape, with rabbits as the only residents. The town proper is along the seaside, where the estuary of the river Tagus debouches into open water of the Atlantic. We reached it by railway, the Linha de Cascais. This is a pleasant journey along the coast. from Lisbon. We spent a day exploring the towns and villages along the routes of the railway. Despite some drawbacks it was all in all a lovely holiday as far as I was concerned, but my son had just fallen in love for the first time. His enamored was back in England, and he really didn’t want be all those miles away from her.
THE BLOG FOR MEMORIES OF THE PAST
What are we doing when we play? The dictionary definition is ‘engage in activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than a serious or practical purpose‘. That is the superficial view of play. We are having fun certainly, but there is a deeply serious motive behind it. We are doing nothing less than preparing ourselves for the things that are going to happen to all of us. To put this in modern terms, we are rehearsing life skills. This is true of adults, children – even dogs. This means that play is basic practice for what will happen in the real world, whether it is for humans or in animals. This is what we are doing when we play chess, toy soldiers, football, even noughts and crosses. Conflict is often a large part of play as it is in life – the two teams in a sports match are an example of this, but not all play is conflict; building with Lego bricks, playing with dolls, even a dog returning a ball that you have thrown are cooperative endeavours in play, not involving conflict. It is obvious why children play so much – they have a lot to learn and quickly – but play continues throughout life, though it is less important in the elderly. You will not find much playfulness in an old folks home.
It is revealing to consider the different uses of the word ‘play’. An important one is the playing of music. Is music a preparation for life? In a much more subtle way than playing games it is. Playing in this respect is much more about cooperation than conflict, though conflict has its place. The playing of a military band helps to reinforce the unity of a regiment before going into battle. It is an important part of preparing for conflict – a real life and death scenario. Playing a hymn tune provides a church congregation with a single sense purpose. The National Anthem produces a unity among the attendees at an event. In these cases playing music is mostly looking forward, but in playing a folk song it is looking back to things that happened long ago. You could regard the playing of a piece of music as erecting a structure in sound that imitates the structure of the world around us. In playing your part in an orchestra you are participating in a joint venture that produces a sense of achievement; it is similar to the feeling of the winning team in a Cup Final.
Yet another sense the word ‘play’ concerns drama. A play is a fictional version of life that prepares you emotionally for the good and the bad, the comedy and the tragedy. That is why we are entertained by plays; they impose order on the welter of experiences that rain down on us every day, and allow us to draw lessons from apparently random events. The same thing is happening when the rules of a cricket match let us create order out of chaos; it has a wicket, overs, an umpire. It is not just wildly hitting out at ball with a bat. A play is even more structured than a sports match but both have a beginning and an end; what happens in the middle is played out before our eyes. This can be a deeply moving experience but ultimately it is not real life; ‘the play’s the thing’*. We leave the stadium or the theatre and go home.
These different uses of the word play are not recognized as having any connection by most people. I hope that I have demonstrated the underlying relationship of these kinds of play and its complete contrast with actuality. I think there is the germ of a much longer and deeper piece of writing in this short blog on play, but this will have to do for now.
*This quotation comes from Shakespeare’s play Hamlet.
THE BLOG FOR THE STORY OF PLAY
It is never too late to learn, and I am still learning things about my schooldays. Yes, as long ago as that! I have known for a long time that it was a pretty rigorous education that I got at the school that I attended, but what I am now realising is how relatively unengaged with their pupils’ development most schools are. This not because they are bad schools, or that they employ bad teachers, but their involvement with the day’s activities ends mid-afternoon; then the young rascals are free to engage in every kind of mischief, or else do nothing at all. This leaves the parents with a heavy responsibility, and one that they cannot even begin to undertake if they are themselves working. I have been hearing people’s tales of adolescence, and how they wasted countless opportunities through natural teenage ennui. The difficulty for most young people is not committing vandalism or general devilry, it is merely getting them to get off their backsides.
My life was not like that. There is no doubt that the extra mile that my school went with its scholars was because it was a boarding school. Virtually every second of my waking day, from rising in the morning to going to sleep at night, was organised for me. As a result I had no chance whatever of vegetating. I was immersed in all kinds of activities from making my bed and polishing my shoes in the morning to cleaning my teeth at night. I wonder how I fitted it all in. I played games on most days, read novels, went sailing, target shooting, played in the school orchestra, painted pictures, took part in the debating society and acted in numerous plays. I wasn’t particularly good at many of these things (especially games) – although I was literary editor of the school magazine – but that was not the point. Doing things – anything- was. When I went home I was equally showered with great choices by my dear father – working an Adana printing press, railway modelling, dance lessons, canoeing, photography and gardening, to name but a few. Growing up was an endless round of opportunities. I could decide whatever I wanted to do, but doing nothing was not an option; doing things was expected of me. In this I was so lucky compared to most adolescents, as I am only now realising.
From the age of ten it was boarding school for me. Terror is not too strong a word to describe the feeling of dread that descended on me as the fateful hour approached when I was to be abandoned; to what disasters I knew not. The prospect of leaving home at such a tender age was appalling, but the reality was positively wonderful. After my initial misgivings I soon settled into school life. Of course I looked forward to the holidays, but the journey back at the end of the break was no longer at time of apprehension. The school was single sex during my time, although it is now fully coeducational. There are virtually no boys’ schools left – Eton and Harrow, and maybe a few others – but I have no regrets about my education having no feminine influence. I may have had a few problems relating to the female sex once I left school, but these soon passed. As an adult I have in fact had more female friends than male ones. However the male friends that I made all those years ago have remained friends ever since. I may not see them very often, but even those who live far away in distant lands can now contact me easily by email.
I know that the possibility of attending such an excellent boarding school is not an option for most people, but if they did not exist the life of the nation would be the poorer. County Scholarships were a great leveler in this respect. These enabled those from poorer backgrounds to go to a really good school. The abolition of this excellent system of State Scholarships by the Labour Government in the 1970s, along with the closure of most grammar schools, has only increased social segregation massively. This has been a terrible and regressive thing. The importance of going to a boarding school was the key; the local day-boys, who attended on scholarships that were provided from the school’s own financial resources, didn’t do anything like so well. The day-boys went home mid afternoon, when they were free to engage in every kind of mischief, or else do nothing at all.
THE BLOG FOR MEMORIES OF THE PAST
THE CITY IN THE 1950’s
I have been watching old films of Norwich in the fifties on Youtube and it is very interesting to me. This is the time when my eyes were first opening to the ‘fine old city’* and its inhabitants. There is even a shot of Aunt Ruth dressed in her civic regalia in a documentary; she is walking out of a service at the cathedral that opened the 1955 Norwich Assizes . That was four years after her period as Lord Mayor. She was smiling most beatifically at no one in particular. I keep hoping to catch a glimpse of my father-in-law Jack Turner; he was a bobby in Norwich at the time. I may have seen him, but with his helmet on it is hard to say. He was PC 49 in the Norwich force.
District Nurse Aunty Olive was living in Christopher Close and I would often go round to her flat. I remember sitting by her fire while her sons and a college friend told ghost stories, as I gazed into the embers. My father’s shop was right in the city centre, and he would call in for a drink with Jack Hubbard, the publican of the Lamb Inn next door. Uncle Ozzie Osborne’s shop was round the corner in White Lion Street. He sold anything made of rubber: wellies, garden hoses and other under-the-counter items. Uncle Bertie was deputy head at the CNS.
While all this family life was continuing, British Railways was created in 1948. Steam hauled trains puffed their way into the city’s three railway termini. On the river sea going colliers from Newcastle came up to the generating station and ships laden with timber from Finland plied their trade down on the wharves opposite Riverside Road. River tugs from Yarmouth hauled strings of barges for the gas works on Gas Hill. Varnished wooden motor cruisers threaded their way between this commercial traffic to the Yacht Station above Foundry Bridge.
Four busy breweries filled the air with the delicious aroma of malt and hops. At the mustard factory the Carrow Works steam hooter summoned the workers at ten-to-eight in the morning; if the wind was in the right direction I could hear this as I lay in bed four miles away. To the west side of the city hordes of shoe workers pedalled their way to the day’s task in the many shoe factories. Two large printing offices which had been in the city since the early nineteenth century were still operating. These were Jarrolds at Whitefriars and Fletchers on Castle Meadow, both now no more, although the former firm remains as the large department store in the city and the latter was bought up by Clays of Bungay.
Norwich had no airport throughout the 1950s; the first aerodrome at Mousehold Heath was opened in 1933, but fell into disuse with the outbreak of war. The current International Airport was still called RAF St Faiths, and was a busy jet fighter base. (It had been a USAAF base during war, when it was built slap bang across the Cromer Road, which had to be diverted along a narrow lane.) Jets were very noisy in the fifties, and the base was right next to a residential area – it must have been hard to get one’s baby to sleep. Along Fifers Lane were the married quarters of the personnel, the brickwork done in different colours in an attempt to camouflage them! There was also a NAAFI that lasted long after he base closed to supply the airmen from RAF Coltishall who continued to live there. Across the Holt Road from St Faiths airfield was Norwich Speedway, a popular attraction that was redeveloped for housing in the 1960’s and has never been replaced.
Every Saturday the smell of the farmyard filled the air. Sheep, pigs and cattle were driven through the streets, and I don’t mean in lorries. They walked up Bracondale and along Ber Street, having arrived from across the county at Trowse station. They filled the pens of the open space below the castle, while the smaller livestock (chickens, geese and rabbits) were sold slightly further away near the cast iron premises of Panks. Kittens and puppies were also available. Miss Wicks did a good trade selling dog biscuits and fish pellets from her centuries-old shop in Golden Ball Street. At the end of the day the cattle were driven back by men with whippy canes for dispatch to their new owners or the slaughterhouse.
Easter saw the Fair take over the cattle market, although it closed on Good Friday. The steam fairground engines rocked gently back and forth as they lit up the gaudy displays; if you paid a bob to enter her tent you could witness the tattooed lady killing rats with her teeth. (Entertainment was more cruel and basic sixty years ago.) For the summer holiday there was no fortnight in Spain, only a trip to the seaside at Yarmouth or Caister; ice creams trumped sangria.The lowly Third Division Canaries finished the decade with the famous Cup Run; they only lost the semi-final to First Division Luton Town on the replay. The excitement that gripped the City football fans is still remembered today by those of a certain age.
Almost all these aspects of the city have changed; only the Yacht Station and the football ground remain in place. Britannia Barracks now contains prisoners, not soldiers. One railway station only remains and the gas works and the power station have long passed into history. The new library has come and gone (gone up in flames in fact) since the 1950s. The Press Office has moved from Redwell Street, Barclays Bank no longer has its impressive local HQ at Bank Plain and the GPO sorting office no longer stands across the street. This now houses Anglia Television, which was not in existence then, and where UEA now has is campus was Earlham golf course. The Norfolk and Norwich Hospital still occupied the site where it had been established in the 18th century, until it moved to its new site in 2001.
Much has altered, but the cathedral and the castle still stand guard over the inhabitants, as they have done for nearly a thousand years. The Maids Head hotel has welcomed visitors to Norwich for almost as long. Nevertheless, the rest of the 20th century saw the old city vanish for ever in a way that Hitler’s bombs could never achieve.
*‘A fine old city, truly, is that’ is a quotation from Lavengro, by the 19th century Norfolk born writer George Borrow.
THE BLOG FOR MEMORIES OF NORWICH
I am not a golfer. I used to enjoy a 20 minute round on the putting green at Pakefield; that was a particular favourite of my father’s. This putting green on the front at Lowestoft claims to be over 200 years old, so the turf there must be very ancient indeed.
The putting green at Southwold is rather more recent, but that is another green I used to frequent on summer holidays as a child. I once went round the Pitch and Putt course at Holt Hall when my own children were young. That was not at all enjoyable, as the grass was long and roughly cut, and swinging a golf club with any accuracy was impossible.
I have never done a round of golf on a real golf course however, and have never wished to either. It is a fine hobby for Scotsmen who invented it, but this Sassenach can find more interesting things to do on a country walk than to whack a golf ball. That is not to say I am unfamiliar with golf courses. The first one I frequented was Bungay golf course on Outney Common. In 1955 I was a schoolboy at St Mary’s, just a few hundred yards away from the common. For afternoon sports we went down to the Bungay Golf Course Club House to collect the goal posts. Our football pitch wasn’t exactly on the golf course, but it wasn’t far off. We were on good terms with the greenkeeper who we would see as we went into the shed where the goal posts were kept. Of course there was nothing like a net or even a crossbar to erect. In the summer we played cricket by the golf course, but the stumps we took with us. One day we watched in fascination as a controlled burn by Peter Sprake of the gorse on the common got out of hand. Flames spread to the golf course. In the end I had to run for dear life and left my school blazer on the grass. It nearly became a blazer in another sense, but luckily it was retrieved and later restored to me by a fireman.
Golf was a popular hobby among my school friends at Gresham’s, but there wasn’t a course in Holt so it wasn’t a frequent pastime. The nearest courses were at Sheringham, Cromer and the Links at West Runton. Of all these courses that at Cromer I know best, because one crosses it to walk to the lighthouse on the cliffs.
I spent a Sunday afternoon at the Links with a friend and his family n the early 1960s. It was rather boring because we boys sat outside in the car, while the adults were drinking inside in the bar. The car was an elegant Humber Snipe, but even the plush leather seats began to pall after a while. What a disgraceful way to treat youngsters!
The Eaton Golf Course is bordered by Marston Lane which runs from Ipswich Road on the outskirts of Norwich. This lane was once open to traffic but has now been a footpath for over fifty years. I often used to walk my dogs along Marston Lane. I would see the golfers practising their swings. I picked up an enormous number of lost golf balls from the verge as I wandered along the public highway. Unfortunately they are too small and hard for dogs, who much prefer to play with tennis balls.
I was for years a daily visitor to the Wensum Valley golf Course, but that was as their postman. Since retiring I have been an occasional diner at their carvery. The restaurant has a very good view across the first tee to the country beyond. The view in future may be rather spoilt by the northern distributor road, which will terminate in a roundabout in the middle distance.
THE BLOG FOR MEMORIES OF EAST ANGLIAN LIFE
As I grew up the games I played changed. This was in part because I was sent to boarding school at the age of ten, so there were always plenty of boys of my own age to play with. The problem of having nobody to play with at home only reappeared during the school holidays. Being at boarding school meant that a lot of games had to be played indoors after dark. Having friends to play games with in the evening was a novelty.
Sardines is the obvious indoor game. We did play Sardines at school, but not very often – I think the staff must have disapproved of us crowding into various inaccessible parts of the house. The airing cupboard was a good place to hide for example, but I doubt that matron would have agreed had she known about it. Other less intrusive games were more commonly played. The great time for playing indoor games was on winter Saturday and Sunday evenings, when there was no prep to do. You would call ‘prep’ homework, but as we were at boarding school and didn’t go home in the evenings, it was ‘preparation’ (to give the task its full title, that we never used).
Battleships was popular, and it only required a piece of paper and a pencil to set it up. Other games needed a bit more in the way of equipment. Board games like Cluedo and Totopoly could only be played if somebody had the box, without too many of the pieces missing. This was even more important with a game of cards. Monopoly is fine if a few of the notes of money have gone AWOL, but even a simple card game like Pontoon is not very satisfactory if played with a pack of 51 cards.
With the coming of summer any indoor pursuits were hidden away. Tennis, Croquet and French cricket did not require more than a minimum of two people to play and were therefore suitable for small numbers. A proper game of cricket itself requires 22 players and needed too much organisation for ad hoc play. The kicking around of a football had been a game good for any time of year when I was at my day school, but because my boarding school was a Rugby playing school football was completely ignored. I cannot remember any of my friends even possessing a football, and kicking a Rugby ball around is not particularly enjoyable unless you are a very good player. Needless to say I wasn’t, but I still had a “Rugger” ball. During the cold winter of 1963 we had a go at skating, but as no-one had any skates this just meant sliding around on the icy pond. Tobogganing was much more satisfactory because several of my friends had sledges, which two or three of us could pile onto. Snowballing was the best fun of the lot, and need no equipment at all.
I have played a few games as adult, both physical and mental. Three card brag was a card game I played as a twenty something; Badminton was good exercise when I was thirty, and Tetris I played endlessly when I first got a computer at over forty. Although they are very different – some require a bit of muscle and some don’t- they can all be addictive while you are playing them. On the whole I do not feel the need to play games nowadays. To watch other people playing games has never been a hobby of mine. My wife and son love going to watch the Canaries (Norwich City Football Club) at Carrow Road, but for many fans watching footie entails sitting on the sofa with a can of lager. This is the very antithesis of a healthy lifestyle.
FOR MEMORIES OF EAST ANGLIAN LIFE
Hop-Scotch was a popular game among my contemporaries when I was a youngster, with an important proviso; it was only played by girls. I can find no reference to this fact in any writing on the subject, where it is referred to simply as a children’s game, as if it were played equally by boys and girls. Scotch-hop, as it was called two or three hundred years ago, does appear to have been a game played by boys – perhaps solely by boys – but by my time this was no longer the case. My father, in talking of the games he played as a lad, used to mention spinning tops, hoop and stick and skittles but never spoke of hop-scotch, so I think it was already banished from the boys’ playground by the early twentieth century. It was certainly the case in East Anglia; I wonder how widespread this feature is? On Wikipedia there is a picture which says it is of boys and girls playing the local version of hop-scotch in Cuba (known there as“pon”), but the photo shows only girls playing it. I wonder if the same gender division applies there?
Because I never played hop-scotch I have only a vague idea of the rules of the game. I know that one started by scratching the court into the ground with a stick, and then began the game by throwing a stone, but the finer points of the game, like which foot goes into which square as you hopped along, was something I never mastered. I was fortunate to go to a mixed school to have learned even this much. My sisters, who were both educated at a girl’s school, did not realise that boys did not play hop-scotch until I mentioned it late in life. When I moved on to a boys school hop-scotch disappeared from my firmament, to be replaced by such masculine sports as conkers and marbles, British bulldog and tag.
Skirts tended to get in the way as one played hop-scotch, especially as certain positions required the player to freeze in a rather unladylike posture with your legs wide apart, and so often the girls would tuck their skirts into their knickers before starting a game. It was a very popular game too. While we boys went off to play football or Cowboys and Indians, or dig in the sand pit, the girls would spend most playtimes at a game of hop-scotch.
I haven’t seen anyone of whichever sex playing hop-scotch for many years now, but that does not mean it isn’t played. I am merely an old man who does not mix with the young to any great extent. But with the modern tendency to play computer games I wonder if it is so popular as it once was. When it is played today perhaps the gender of hop-scotch players has changed. I have seen hop-scotch courts laid out on paving stones in school play areas, and I am sure if it is supervised by a teacher as part of a PE lesson it would be played by boys as well as girls.
The official games that children played were part of the school timetable. Football and cricket are not children’s games because they are played by adults too. For girls the sports included rounders, but sometimes the boys joined in too. I suspect that this was because all the teachers were female. Although Miss Maudsley our head was quite happy to referee a game of football I think some of the schoolmistresses were more at ease taking a game of rounders.
I have already mentioned some of the other games I played as a lad. Doctors and Nurses and of course Mothers and Fathers were played with the girls, but most games were as rigidly segregated by gender as if we had gone to single-sex schools. We boys never scratched out elaborate plans of houses in the earth and the girls never joined in our endless games with our Dinky toys. Maybe some tom-boys would have liked to join in, but you had to be a very brave child to go against the gender stereotypes.
At home I played too, but play was different there. Parents, sisters and friends could sometimes be roped in, but much of the time I was on my own. A game of catch with a tennis ball was excellent from this point of view, because by bouncing it against a wall you needed nobody to play with. But most of my play at home involved lots of imagination – and toys.
THE STORY OF EAST ANGLIAN LIFE
I cannot claim many similarities with the poet George Crabbe (1754-1832), but we both began our school careers at Bungay in Suffolk. Crabbe was sent as a boarder to Bungay Grammar School from his home in Aldeburgh. I was sent as a day boy to St Mary’s School from my home in Poringland. St Mary’s was not an old-established school; in Crabbe’s time the house would have been newly built as the rectory of St Mary’s parish church. Bungay Grammar School on the other hand was a long-established school, having been founded in the year 1565. St Mary’s School may not have been very old, but the connection of the Grammar School with St Mary’s in one sense goes back to the mid-sixteenth century; the Grammar School was originally set up in St Mary’s churchyard.
What gives me a real sense of identity with George Crabbe however is the fact that from the late sixteenth century, when it left St Mary’s churchyard, until 1925 the Grammar School was in Earsham Street, only a few doors along from St Mary’s rectory (later St Mary’s School). The Grammar School buildings were demolished in 1937 and the Post Office was built there in 1940, where it remains. It is rather rewarding to think of centuries of schoolboys making their way along Outney Road to play on the common. This has ended now as not only is there now no school in Earsham Street but the new bypass has divided the town from the common. I was one of the last schoolboys to play cricket and football there in 1959; as doubtless George Crabbe had played games some 200 years earlier. But we must not get too carried away by the past and by the schools in Bungay. Crabbe was soon moved on the rather grander Grammar School at Stowmarket, and I too moved from St Mary’s to a better known boarding school in Norfolk.
After leaving school George Crabbe did his apprenticeship as a surgeon, but his heart was in the writing of poetry. Poetry however does not pay the rent. He could not find a publisher who was interested in his work, and in desperation he wrote to the politician Edmund Burke. Burke was impressed and promised to help him all he could, and this encouraged the young man. He also suggested that as way of paying his way in the world a career in the church would suit him. Crabbe became Chaplain to the Duke of Rutland.
In due course he found a publisher for his work, and became a confidante of Dr Johnson. This extract is taken from Boswell’s Life of Johnson:
Soon after this time I had an opportunity of seeing, by means of one of his friends, a proof that his talents, as well as his obliging service to authours, were as ready as ever. He had revised “The Village”, an admirable poem by the Reverend Mr Crabbe. Its sentiments as to the false notions of rustick happiness and rustick virtue were quite congenial with his own; and he had taken the trouble not only to suggest slight corrections and variations, but to furnish some lines, when he could give the writer’s meaning better than in the manuscript.
This was written in 1784 near the end of Johnson ‘s life, when he was 74 and Crabbe was a young man of 29. Crabbe’s style of heroic couplets is no longer popular although his subject matter of the lives ordinary people is more so. We would perhaps not be so familiar with his name had not Benjamin Britten taken his character Peter Grimes, from the poem The Borough, as the subject matter for the libretto of his 1945 opera of that name.
THE BLOG FOR MEMORIES OF EAST ANGLIAN LIFE
The north-eastern corner of Suffolk looks to Norwich rather than Ipswich for much of its identity. Lowestoft has rail connections with both Ipswich and Norwich, but Norwich is quite a lot closer. When I was at school in Suffolk, in Bungay, all my contemporaries followed Norwich City Football Club, not Ipswich Town. It is true that it was 1959, when Norwich had a particularly exciting Cup Run, but Bungay which was only 15 miles from Norwich looked to the city for its football. The Canaries were at the time a division three side, but they reached the semi-finals of the FA Cup, losing to Luton Town but only on a replay. Nottingham Forest eventually won the Cup, but in Norfolk it is the semi-final that we remember – if we are old enough!
When I first remember Lowestoft it was very much a fishing port, and it was also a busy shipbuilding town. Richard Shipbuilding Ltd lasted until 1994 when it closed due to lack of orders. Another major shipbuilding company, Brooke Marine, had closed a couple of years before that. On September 30th 1972 I was fortunate to go round the yard on a visit with members of the Norfolk Nautical Research Society (see my blog of December 22, 2011). The yard was located on the southern bank of Lake Lothing, and the size of craft that could be built there was dictated by the width of the harbour bridge. Minesweepers and similar naval vessels were constructed there; Richards did much the same kind of work.
Here is an extract from my diary of that year: Collected Mr Mills from his home in Heigham Grove at 1:30 pm and drove to Lowestoft. Arrived at Brooke Marine ½ hr early so round to the North side of Lake Lothing to see the yacht hull, which we had taken to be a steamer, but was in fact the Heartsease, a two-masted schooner, which is being converted to three masts. We were a few minutes late therefore at Brooke Marine. It is very neat for a shipyard, with flowering cherries, lawns etc. We saw round the steel forming and welding shop, the loft where lines are drawn out and templates made. Outside saw vessels on slipways at various stages of construction. Two stern trawler factory ships, several patrol boats and a large sea-going motor cruiser for the King of Tonga and a U.S. Naval vessel. Next we went round a workshop for smaller vessel, their joinery department and drawing office. Then home and dropped Dad in Poringland and Mr Mills at his request at his office. (Mr Mills was a Notary Public for solicitors Daynes, Chittock and Back with his office in Opie Street, Norwich. He was the founder of the Norfolk Nautical Research Society and started the nautical collection of the Norfolk Museums Service with his many gifts.)
Several things conspired to bring this shipbuilding industry to an end. The size of shipping was growing all the time, and although some smaller vessels were still required, the centre of the industry was moving inexorably from Europe to the Far East. One may see the same sad dereliction of former shipyards in the ports of Nantes and Dieppe in France. Trawlers were no longer required as the fishing industry withered in Lowestoft, and the early nineties was a bad time for leisure craft.
On a brighter note, I can recall my involvement with wood-turning in Oulton Broad. This was in the 1980s and I was busy making parts for stools on my Myford 8 woodturning lathe. These were sold all over the country in John Lewis stores. Once a week (I think it was Thursday) I would go over to Oulton Broad to deliver my quota of turning to the factory which was in the old station building at Oulton Broad North. I would leave with my supply of blanks for the following week. I0 was courting my future wife at the time and often she would accompany me. Talking of the railway stations in Oulton Broad North there is another one at Oulton Broad South, and including them with the terminus at Lowestoft the town has the distinction of being the only town in East Anglia to still have three railway stations. There can be few towns of its size in Britain to match it. In Norfolk there is the village of Brundall that has two railway stations.
After doing my business at Oulton Broad we would carry on into Lowestoft. There our first call would be the Smoke House. This was an ancient property where the oak sawdust was burnt on the floor. The herrings were hung up in the rafters of the house and taken down when suitably smoked and had turned into kippers and bloaters. The public were served at a counter where you could see all this going on. We would leave with a week’s supply of bloaters, my favourite fish. The next stop was back in Oulton Broad, on the way home; this was at a cheese shop. I went past the place where the cheese shop had been over 10 years ago, but it was long gone. Even the shop had reverted to a domestic dwelling and you would never know it had been there. My wife was fond of their Gouda cheese, while I was very fond or the Farmhouse Red Leicester they stocked. The Stilton too was very good. Then it was back to Norwich and (for me) long hours of working with gouges and chisels amid mountains of wood chippings.
Most people would associate Lowestoft with seaside holidays, but what can one say about sand? Just inland of the sand was the Esplanade 18 Hole Putting Green and Café on which I have played many jolly games. The card (which I still have) of a game with my father and sister in August 1971 (which I won) boasts that the turf was over 200 years old!
THE BLOG FOR MEMORIES OF EAST ANGLIAN LIFE
SHAM’S (Autobiography 23)
This the junior school playing field in Holt, where my son took part in a match against Gresham’s in 1999. It was also where I played games as a schoolboy from 1960 until 1963. I those days, behind the hedge to the right, a B12 steam locomotive would shunt trucks in the autumn air while we played with a leather Rugby ball. The station was a hundred yards further along to the right. The station still took passengers until 1964, when it closed completely. By then I had progressed into the senior school. I was always more interested in railways than in Rugby.
In my first year, 1959 (when I was only 10), I played football instead of “Rugger”; we were deemed too young for such a tough sport. Football was played on the field behind Crossways where Grove Road meets Pearsons Road. This field has now been built on (and Crossways is now the girls’ house). The land between Crossways and the Rugby pitches was taken up by an orchard; it was not school property then. This land has also been taken over by the junior school.
Note that I have called the game Rugger; this was the universally used word at the time, although I think we were a bit old fashioned in doing so. Rugger was very much the Public School word for the game. The equivalent word for football was soccer (from Association Football) but that was not a term we used, althoughSoccer is what the game is called in the USA. After my first term I was into the annual round of hockey (Lent term) cricket (Summer term) and Rugby (Michaelmas term), which continued throughout my school career.
The first picture however is a record of my son Peter’s visit to Holt during his first term at Norwich School in 1999. This was November 6th (actually his sister Polly’s birthday!). I was a late autumn as you can see because a lot of the trees are still fully covered in green leaves. I don’t think a day school can ever have the same emphasis on sport that a boarding school can have, and Gresham’s Under 13s certainly thrashed Norwich school at Rugby on that day. The Holt school is outstanding at Rugby having produced the Youngs brothers Tom and Ben; they are about the same age as my son Peter. They are currently in the England squad. So Gresham’s is definitely the more sporty school, but Norwich school is rather better at academic subjects and consistently comes significantly higher up the annual league table, so it is a matter of swings and roundabouts. I wonder which kind of excellence most parents would prefer?
If I have any readers who are not familiar with the school colours Gresham’s shirts are black and white hoops, while the Norwich School’s are navy blue and claret. Peter’s shirt was a secondhand one and so looks rather faded (all the others’ shirts seem new). You can see him at the edge of the loose scrum. At least Peter got to play in a match against another school, which is something I never achieved. Despite his grounding in Rugby the game of which he is the keenest follower is football. Even at school he wrote a regular column in the school magazine (The Grapevine) on the Canaries and he is still a visitor to Carrow Road when he can make it. As he is currently living in Brussels this is not very often! Personally I am not a football fan (nor a Rugby fan either come to that). I have been to one match at Carrow Road, a Derby match against Ipswich which Norwich won. It is several years ago now when both teams were in the Championship (as of the 2014/2015 season neither are, so there will be another Derby match in Norwich). I couldn’t have chosen a better match to attend. Although I quite enjoyed the experience I have no urge to repeat it.