Magazine article The Spectator

Norfolk

Magazine article The Spectator

Norfolk

Article excerpt

Occasionally the fleck of garnish on a pretentious plate or a price tag in a fishmonger's window makes me smile cruelly. Some punters might pay a fortune for samphire but not me. I know where you can buy a bushel of poor man's asparagus for under a fiver. I spent my childhood summers in Norfolk.

The toothsome marsh weed, sold for a song in local markets, reflects the place. Rare treats are plentiful and cheap here. Norfolk has sandy beaches, soft villages of sandstone and flint, the Broads, ancient churches and older woods, rippling fields dotted with poppies.

At this point some smarty-pants will repeat the quip that Norfolk is very flat. Nonsense, it is incredibly effervescent, one great fizzy ginger beer. Why, its west is even a vast art gallery, having been specially lowered to display the splendid churches and skyscapes to better effect.

Touring west Norfolk is like driving round a Mondrian painting. You zip along miles of dead-straight road then suddenly it jumps off at right angles. The vehicles of unsuccessful participants in this local art exam poke from ditches, forming intriguing contemporary sculptures.

'I meant,' persists the doubter, 'that the landscape lacks character.' Utter rot. The locals are a decidedly odd lot and all the better for it. Take North Norfolk's most famous son.

I refer not to Nelson but to Harold Davidson, Vicar of Stiffkey in the Thirties. He was defrocked for ministering to Soho prostitutes by hosting pyjama parties, joined a circus and was again in the News of the World when he was eaten by a lion at Skegness. …

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