Posts Tagged ‘Norwich


Norfolk wisdom: “You can’t turn people off their table because Johnny Depp has walked in….

My sources (a group of sturdy women whose ears are close to the ground and who require payment in village fete advertisements only) tell me that Johnny Depp is still looking for a country manor in my home county of Norfolk to use as a British base.

That man simply will not take ‘no’ for an answer. If I’ve told him once, I’ve told him a thousand times: I, unlike eight-bedroom, six-bathroom Elizabethan-moated mansions with their own vineyards around 9.3 miles south-west of Norwich, am not on the market.

If he thinks that by moving to my home county he’ll persuade me to swap the privileged life I lead in the city’s Golden Triangle, the housing district where you are only ever three minutes away from a Co-op Local store, for a tortured existence as the pampered plaything of a multi-millionaire, he is sorely mistaken.

Yes, yes, your house has got a moat, a vineyard, eight bedrooms, six bathrooms and its own helipad, but has it got a selection of Co-op Locals less than three minutes away? No, it has not. You say ‘idyllic rural retreat’, I say ‘gigantic pain in the arse when you run out of Coco Pops and Cheesestrings’.

In 2007, Johnny was in Norfolk pretending to look for a house where he and his Parisian supermodel wife could spend time when he had filming commitments in Blighty.

“The marriage is just a publicity stunt!” he told me.

“I hate living in Paris with all that bloody culture and meals that go on for sixteen hours straight – I want to come to Norfolk. Hang the difficult transport routes to any other part of the county, let alone the rest of Britain, I’ll dual the effing A11 myself if I have to!”

His pleas fell on deaf ears. Brad Pitt told me much the same a few years back and the next thing I knew he’d had 48 children and was six-pack-deep in dirty nappies. Actors are notoriously good liars, unless they haven’t had proper training, in which case they’re notoriously wooden, unconvincing liars.

I’m not adverse to Johnny moving to Norfolk per se, but if he comes, more will follow.

Before you know it everyone will want to move to Norfolk and we’ll have to share it with people who think they’re doing us a favour because before they arrived, our only claims to fame were Nelson (dead), Edith Cavell (dead), Colman’s Mustard (inert), Delia Smith (pissed)  and Bernard Matthews (publicly blamed for the nation’s childhood obesity crisis. And inert).*

Johnny wished he hadnt accepted Bernard Matthews invitation to dinner

Johnny wished he hadn't accepted Bernard Matthews' invitation to dinner

The whole point of living in Norfolk is that our appalling A roads keep strangers away, and those that do slip through the net can be swiftly dispatched to the north of the county where all the super posh Jemimas and Ruperts should expect a bit of inconvenience on the basis that they got all the really good scenery.

To be fair, inn-keepers in Norfolk have already been doing their bit to stem the tide of marauding celebrities trying to buy up our dwindling stock of moated pleasure palaces.

Last year, at the Fox and Goose pub in Fressingfield, staff turned Johnny Depp down when he tried to book a table because the restaurant was full.

Had the same happened in London, they’d have shot a few diners and fashioned a table from their stiffening corpses if it meant the chance of shoehorning Johnny in and having half their logo displayed in a paparazzi shot in the next edition of Heat magazine.

Not so in Norfolk. No sir. Or as Suzanne Stenseth, landlady of The Ivy House where Johnny has also enjoyed a pint said: “If he’d walked in here on the same night, he’d have got the same response – you can’t turn people off their table because Johnny Depp has walked in.”

It’s this kind of attitude we need to applaud. Give them an inch and the next thing you know you’ll be fighting them or their bodyguards for the last packet of Cheesetrings in the Co-op Local.

(* I understand that my appeal is multi-national. So for those of you who have no idea who any of Norfolk’s famous sons and daughters are, here is a cut-out-and-keep guide.

* Nelson (Admiral Lord): One armed, one-eyed sea bandit that secured the Battle of Trafalgar before taking one for the team and dying on board ship. Well known for his immense column.

* Edith Cavell: Brave nurse who smuggled allied prisoners out of German-occupied Belgium during WW1. Homely, but heroic.

* Colman’s Mustard: Norwich gold.

* Delia Smith: The nation’s least-threatening TV chef. Makes meals with frozen mash, appeals to those without aspirations in the kitchen. Technically lives in the neighbouring county of Suffolk, but is major shareholder of Norwich’s football club, so kind of qualifies.

* Bernard Matthews: Turkey king who employs 95 per cent of Norfolk’s village idiots and whose breaded Turkey Twizzlers became the reluctant poster boys for Britain’s obesity crisis. Bernard himself insists on wearing tweed and plus fours and pronouncing ‘beautiful’ in a lamentable Norfolk accent which transforms it into ‘bootiful’. He is single-handedly responsible for making the rest of Britain believe that everyone in Norfolk is an inbred halfwit, when in fact the figure is closer to 84 per cent.)

PS Thanks to all of you whose sterling efforts on behalf of my continued employment have earnt me marvellous hits this week. I have ordered the virgins who will meet you at heaven’s gate. And for those of you who wanted ‘someone a bit more experienced’, I’ve got that covered, too.


Global warming is all my fault. And here’s why

Living in Norfolk, it’s difficult to be blasé about global warming.

Had I used a few less cans of hairspray in the 1980s I might have saved our county from becoming a modern-day Atlantis, our flatlands swamped by giant waves forcing all survivors to take refuge in a two-up two-down at the top of Gas Hill (for those of you not from our Fine City, the vertiginous Gas Hill is thus named because it has a gasworks on it – we are glaringly literal here in the East. Just don’t ask about the provenance of Rampant Horse Street).

I’ve always wanted to live by the sea, but I figured it might involve moving out of Norwich, rather than opening my front door in the Golden Triangle to watch polar bears floating past on lumps of North Walsham.

Global warming is like a religious education lesson come to life; senseless greed, disaster wreaking floods, hair-rending guilt and punishment from God by thunderbolts, storms, fire and ice. All that’s missing are a few beards, a couple of miracles and some oxen.
To cut a long story short, we’re all doomed unless everyone starts using energy-efficient lightbulbs and shopping in the organic section at Waitrose.

To this end, I have started growing my own vegetables.

By “growing my own vegetables” I mean that I’ve got a polystyrene box filled with musty smelling earth which has yielded a crop of three mushrooms. Bearing in mind the price of the mushroom growing kit, each mushroom I harvested was worth around £3.33.

I have it on good authority that the environment was struggling quite badly before I embarked on my mission to be self-sufficient. Follow my lead and we’ll turn back the tides yet.


Forget sat nav: my primary school promised me I’d have a hover car by the year 2000. The liars.

I fear for future generations, I really do.

They’ll already be hampered with giant thumbs thanks to the genetic legacy handed down to them by forefathers who spent 23 out of every 24 hours texting and now they’re destined to drive aimlessly over cliffs because no one in the world will be able to read a map thanks to in-car satellite navigation systems.

A recent report revealed that UK drivers trust their sat-nav systems more than they trust their own eyes; just allow a few seconds for that sentence to sink into your brain before you take to your bed and weep for a week over the lost innocence of maps.

In the past, sat-nav owners have driven into the River Avon and to the edge of a 100-foot drop because their tracking gizmos told them to. An ambulance crew transferring a patient 12 miles from Ilford to Brentwood drove 200 miles in the wrong direction because they were following directions from their sat-nav system.

At some point, surely, you’d think they might have noticed that the half hour journey was taking around four hours longer than usual. But no – it’s this kind of blind obedience that helped Hitler get a foothold in Germany.

The real irony is that the youth of today (my descent into the world of the bitter old goat continues apace – next I’ll be berating the charts for not having any songs with lyrics) absolutely hate being told what to do, yet they’re all queuing up like lemmings to buy a box which tells them what to do ALL THE TIME.

It doesn’t even convert into a TV when it’s not barking orders at you.

If it’s not telling you what to do, it’s telling you just how depressing the road ahead will be; roadworks, traffic jams, accidents, hairpin bends, hurricanes, plagues of locusts – they all lie ahead.

Frankly, I’d rather not know. Being stuck in a motionless line of traffic is the only chance I get to have some of this “me” time I’m always being told about in glossy magazines.

This week, while out and about in my car, two drivers allowed their vehicles to roll backwards into mine while fiddling with their sat-nav.

One had the good grace to wave at me apologetically, the other simply drove away, probably because his sat-nav told him to.

Personally, I like living on the razor’s edge and relying only on a road atlas bought from a Jet garage in 1988 as a means to convey me from one location to another. Isn’t part of the joy of a family day trip the prospect of spending at least a quarter of the journey aimlessly winging it and lying to the children about knowing precisely where you are?

Admittedly, this policy has led to some spectacular “short cuts” through Wales on the way from Norwich to King’s Lynn, but at least I was the master of my own destiny and to my credit, I didn’t end up in a river or dangling from the edge of a cliff.

By the time my children have cars (which, by the way, will be never unless they arrange a police and paramedic escort for every journey they undertake) they won’t need to drive at all, they’ll just get in a car, telepathically relate where they want to go to some kind of gigantic brain on the dashboard and then sit back while the on-board robot serves them moon pills and space juice and drives them straight into the nearest reservoir.

Showing my kids a map and asking them if they could use it to get from a to b will be like giving you or I a mangle, a bar of soap and a tin bucket and asking us to spend the entire day scrubbing the family’s smalls.

They’ll have braying computers built into their toilets to remind them to wipe their bums and wash their hands and a microchip in their forehead telling them when to breathe.

Before sat-nav salesmen grab their green biros to point out to me that their systems are marvellous and I’m the kind of technophobe who makes the sign of a cross if anyone uses so much as a microwave oven in my eyeshot, let me point out that new research proves that I’m right.

Computer Which? a magazine for fearsomely clever boffins who don’t fly into a panic if people start talking to them about jpegs and motherboards commissioned a survey to see just how reliable sat-nav systems are.

The research revealed that an £8 road atlas beat a high-tech satellite navigation system on a simple 70 mile journey, despite the latter costing more than 28 times the price of the book.

Granted, the AA book didn’t look quite as good mounted on the dashboard, but it worked, although to be fair, the survey did note “you need a level-headed passenger with map-reading skills” which cancels out a great deal of hollow-skulled halfwits to whom maps are like flat pack instruction manuals written in Sanskrit.

In a manner of speaking, sat-nav systems are a perfect example of Darwinism – if you blindly drive your car into a ford or to the edge of a cliff because a jumped-up calculator tells you to then you’re proving the theory that only the fittest deserve to survive.


Derren Brown is a warlock. Does that make it wrong to fancy him?

Before you say it, yes, I know he bats for the other side. But if he can persuade a bookie to pay out on a losing ticket, he can surely spend five minutes in front of the mirror and persuade himself that he fancies me.

Tonight on C4, Derren’s Evening of Wonders recorded at the Garrick Theatre was shown. I saw the same show at Norwich Theatre Royal, the cultural epicentre of Norfolk’s art scene (there’s not many contenders) and was mightily impressed. I struggle to get anyone to do what I ask them to until I start holding my breath, turning purple or threatening violence. Derren manages to get total strangers to obey him in seconds, although I’d still like to try and see him persuade my daughter to buy a suitable pair of school shoes without raising his voice or using physical force.

Brown, for the uninitiated, looks a bit like a  cross between a Victorian villain and The Master in Doctor Who, can apparently read people’s minds and is often described as “Britain’s answer to David Blaine”.

Personally, I think this comparison is incorrect, primarily because I believe that Britain’s answer to David Blaine should always be “sod off back to America and leave us alone” regardless of what question is being asked.

Instead, I think Derren Brown is more like a British Uri Geller, other than the fact that he is genuinely talented, significantly less creepy and doesn’t bang on about Michael Jackson’s beautiful soul while bending butter knives on the Richard and Judy Show.

Having watched Derren in action, I got to thinking about what it would be like to be Brown’s girlfriend – I like to play this game every now and again, and since the restraining order regarding Abz from 5ive has been lifted (only because I can’t find him) I feel safe in allowing myself the odd flight of fancy.

Having conjured up several very pleasant images of a relationship made perfect through mind control, hypnosis, illusion and trickery, I suddenly realised that every silver lining has a cloud. And I’m not just talking about Derren’s beard (actually, I quite like his beard – perhaps the mind control has started already).

For example, imagine the trauma involved in buying Derren Brown a surprise birthday present. He’d have worked out what you were going to buy eight years previously, written the name of the gift on a piece of paper and sealed it in an envelope taped to the face of a man who shunted your car on the very day you bought his present.

Or of trying to pull the wool over his eyes.

Derren: I haven’t seen those boots before.

You: Yes you have, I’ve had them for ages. I bought them in the sales.

Derren: No you didn’t. You bought them this morning from a woman with slightly crooked teeth and a lingering odour of Sure 24-Hour Protection. Her postcode is NR4 6ZT. The first single she ever bought was by the Bay City Rollers and her front door is blue. You paid full price. In five minutes you will say the word “unilateral”, in 10 minutes you will see this entire conversation tattooed on to the back of a passing horse.

You: They’re just boots, Derren.

Derren: I knew you were going to say that. Etc etc etc.

I still definitely would, though. And so would he if he wasn’t gay. Fact.


ITV1’s Demons? Five reasons why I’ve seen more frightening nativity plays

I won’t beat around the bush. Demons, ITV1’s new Doctor Who/Merlin/Primeval slot filler is so irredeemably shit that it makes Bonekickers look like a seminal piece of drama. Christ, it even makes Robin Hood look fantastic.

Here are five (I limited myself) reasons why Demons is as pleasurable to watch as open heart surgery on a loved one:

1) Philip Glenister’s ‘American’ accent. Veering from the Texas ‘y’all’ to the New Yorker’s ‘how YOU doin’?’ in one sentence isn’t easy, but Glenister manages it. Throughout entire episodes, he sounds as if he’s parodying people who think they can do accents, but can’t. The irony is that he is one of these people.

2) Characters are given to slipping into middle English the moment they are confronted with one of Satan’s minions. Quite why a messenger from the dark side, imbued with all the devil’s awesome power, would be terrified by a Hollyoaks extra threatening to “smite thee” is anyone’s guess.

3) The demons themselves obviously cleared Poundland out of stock last Halloween. These are the kind of ‘monsters’ we used to be frightened of on Doctor Who in the 1970s because we didn’t know any better.

4) Zoe Tucker’s character Mina Harker (just to hammer home the vampire heritage) is blind. Yet she still manages to apply a perfect sweep of black eyeliner with the kind of finesse that 99 per cent of women with 20:20 vision  can only dream of. Perhaps her guide dog received tutorials from Chanel.

5) Demons is like a really long session of foreplay with an inept man that leads to 30 seconds of sub-standard penetration. Storylines are torturously long-winded and boring, and lead to a face-off between Lynx ad boy Christian Cooke (role: last in a long line of vampire hunters, first in the line to take his top off for no reason) and one of the undead which is practically over the second he starts smiting. In last night’s episode about demons in angel’s clothing stealing children – a kind of Lidl-brand version of Doctor Who’s Blink – he sent Gilgamon, or Gilbert, or whatever dressing-up box devil he was dealing with packing in the time it took me to leave the room and go to the toilet.

I have far more reasons. Like why Richard Wilson looked like the tramp who used to direct traffic in Norwich city centre, why he insisted on carrying a candelabra in a church where you could clearly see light fittings and why we were supposed to just accept that he was like some kind of slovenly Q from the 17th century with a really bad wig. Like why ITV1 has employed someone to choose incidental music which is so glaringly literal (playing the Kaiser Chief’s Ruby, Ruby, Ruby when the Hollyoaks extra rushed to save a character called, you guessed it, Ruby, from some demonic peril or other) that it’s a wonder they don’t play the theme music to Why Don’t You? throughout the entire thing.

Obviously I will watch it again next week to be equally outraged.


You do the shake and vac and keep the corpse intact…

A Norwich man accused of murdering his girlfriend and then living with the corpse for six days is said to have used Shake and Vac to cover up the smell of her decaying body.

Claire Roberts died after being strangled for up to five minutes, a court in Cambridge has heard. Paul Hubbard, 39, denies killing the 28-year-old at the flat the couple shared.

When police eventually discovered the body, it was covered in a light dusting of Shake and Vac.

I feel very sorry for Ms Roberts, who met an untimely end at the hands of a lunatic, but I have to say that Shake and Vac comes out of this looking very good. I used S&V when I was a cleaner and was instructed to by my employer, and frankly I’d say it was a toss-up which smells worse, a decaying corpse or the product itself. That said, companies are always looking for a new demographic to sell to, and I think this court case could offer the makers of S&V a whole untapped target market: psychopaths.


nips like tent pegs, nose like an icicle and I haven’t even left the house yet

Just as I am built for comfort, and not speed, I am also built for warmth and not this bone-pervading cold we are enduring here in the East of England this winter.

By bone-pervading, I mean it’s -2C. And before anyone starts getting uppity – especially all you readers living at the Russian Vostok Base in Antarctica which is currently enjoying invigorating temperatures of -89C, 40C colder than the average surface temperature of Mars – the ability to cope with the cold is all relative, I’ll have you know.

It doesn’t help that I’m living in a badly-insulated, draught-filled Victorian shambles of a house with an extension clearly thrown up by Roy Rogers and Co back in the 1970s with its own eco-system and wind-chill factor of -30C on the most temperate of days.

The extension is, of course, where the computer is housed. As I sit here, ice pick beside me in case I need to chip away at some of the less fashionable keys on the keyboard (§ for example. Or \) which haven’t thawed out, I feel as if I’m typing in a morgue. And for once it’s not a metaphorical morgue which signposts the graveyard of ambition, which is how Jeremy Clarkson describes working in Norfolk.

Critics, or my family as I like to call them, point out that it doesn’t help that I continually cover all the radiators in the house with wet clothes. When I point out that the alternative is that they have no clean clothes whatsoever, they remain impassive. I’m good, but I can’t work miracles (or when I do, I aim for a better class of miracle).

By Tuesday night, it’ll be -4C. Yes, mock us all you Canadians who don’t wave goodbye to snow until May, but remember: we are British. The only temperatures we can withstand are those which are the very definition of ‘average’. This is not average. I can’t feel my bloody nose.

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