Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Boxing Day On The Beach

It was a sunny day, and I went out for a drive to Burnham, where there is a restaurant I thought Id go to for lunch. Although it had been snowing for much to the last week, the roads were wet but fine, and the sun shining on the snowy fields made the countryside very scenic. Even so, some of the side roads seemed to be still covered with ice, so I was thinking I’d stay to the main roads where I could.

After a while I arrived at the place I was heading for, but it was shut! Yes, I could have phoned them first, but it was a last minute decision. Since I was here, I turned around and went back, and turned into Beach Road to get to the beach. This road was slushy, and there were a number of cars coming away, so I waited for them to come along before I went down the road. When I got to the parking lot, I was amazed at the number of cars there - and also by the large puddles and mud!

I looked for somewhere to park that wasn't too wet, changed into my walking shoes, and put on my hat and gloves before venturing out. I set out across the quagmire and up through the sand dunes onto the beach.

There are indeed a number of people here, but the first thing I notice is a memorial plaque to someone drowned on this beach - a solemn reminder that the sea is not to be taken lightly. The tide is quite high and I walk on fairly firm sand, collecting some shells as I go. There is a large piece of drift wood - more like a small tree - in the middle of the beach - people are using this as a photo opportunity, and it does look strange, rising up out of the sand like a swimmer out of the water. Ahead I see what I take to be a kite being flown - as I get closer I see that it is a form of kite, but it’s being used by someone who is standing on a kind of skate board, and is sand-surfing!

I walk around an inlet and then up over the sand dunes into a sandy area with tough long grass - I think that this must be a blissful area in the summer, and even now in mid winter is exudes a feeling of calm serenity. It also shields me form the wind, and as I mount the sand dune to go back onto the beach I’m hit again by the cold blast.

Coming down to the beach again, one of the many dogs that are here on the beach bounds up towards me - I go to greet him, but he veers off at the last moment - just as well because I then see that he is soaking wet from the sea! I re-trace my steps and then go past the path I came in on and further down the beach. Just to one side I see a couple of buckets left there - has someone been building sandcastles? And why did they leave their tools here?

By now the sun is starting to sink below the dunes, making for a dramatic skyline, and it is noticeable that more birds are flying over the beach coming in from their feeding grounds to roust for the night. Before it gets too dark, I turn and go back to the path leading to the parking lot. But as I climb the dunes for the last time and look over towards the setting sun, I see an enormous flock of birds away in the distance. I stop to watch as they swoop across the sky to their rousting grounds, a fitting end to a wild walk on the beach.

Monday, 30 November 2009

The perfect rainbow

This morning I had an errand to run about a mile and a half away, so I decided to walk there and back - it was cloudy, yes, and the forecast was for rain, but I needed the exercise and it’s mostly a fun walk.

I headed out onto the Quay and along towards the fishing boats, and was hit by the cold North wind - just as well I had my thick coat on! There were a few spots of rain in the wind, and I did briefly think of turning back, but it was nothing too bad - nothing like the conditions the fishermen would see out in the North Sea today.

I cut through the gravel car park and then through the back streets that form the quickest walking route to South Gates. This is not the “historic” part of Lyn, but still old - mostly Victorian/Edwardian I’d guess, but lots of different styles of housing, even a few newer developments squeezed into the spaces between the older houses. There is a fascinating juxtaposition here; All Saints church - a classic 14th century building reaching up to the heavens - is almost totally enclosed by a late 20th century utilitarian housing development - a real contract of architectural styles.

Walking on through this area I get to the South Gates and past that I attempt to cross the road - not an easy thing in the morning “rush” hour, when the traffic going in to town just wants to keep on crawling in, and not leaving any space for a pedestrian to cross. But eventually I do get over the other side safely, and start along the long straight Hardwick Road. This starts off with some Victorian villa - each one named and still having the air of middle class respectability about them. At the end of these is the Cemetery running away to either side, and then the road becomes a bridge over the railway. This higher vantage point - which is unusual around Lynn - gives a view of the large stores here, one of which is my destination this morning. The clouds are scudding past as I cut across Tesco’s parking lot to the one I’m going to, and for a few moments I'm out of the weather.

Coming out of the shop I’m suddenly hit full in the face with a really cold north wind, as it starts to rain in earnest and soon my glasses are totally covered with water. But, just as I get across the parking lot and emerge onto the road again it stops raining - there is a bus stop here and I could wait - but I’d decided on a walk, and it might, in any case, take as long to get a bus from here.

I retrace my route, and as I come within sight of the South Gates, I’m suddenly aware of a thick, dark grey cloud ahead of me - should I have waited for the bus after all? Just then, however, I see a rainbow - a perfect arch from left to right across the sky, deeply colored at the ends and lighter overhead. I stop for a moment to just admire the beauty of it - yes, it means rain, but the rain is worth it for this spectacle.

I negotiate the crossings again with a smile on my face, and even as the rain starts to really fall, I’m at least content that I saw some of the wonders of nature, even when I wasn't looking for them.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Reiki day

I’m willing to try most things (but that’s another story) and when a friend offered to do a Reiki with me I accepted.

Now I’d heard the term Reiki, and I knew it was some sort of Alternative Therapy, but that was the extent of my knowledge, so I quickly went on to the interweb to see what I’d just agreed to. This is not, as I’d assumed, some form of ancient art, but was actually “invented” in the early 1900’s (different sources say different years, but all agree the general time frame). It is either a way of channelling life energy to promote healing, or a method of stress reduction and relaxation, depending on who you read. In any case, it’s been practised for a while now, is not a religion, and what harm could it do?

So Saturday morning I set out and get the bus to Wisbech and was met by my friend and her dog, and we went round to her flat. She is a level one practitioner of Reiki and has her certificate on the wall to prove it! We first have a cup of coffee (de-caf) and a chat and then we are ready to start. I lie down and close my eyes and she puts on some soothing oriental music and washes her hands with some sort of aromatic oils before we start.

I have tried meditation many times before, and often it is hard to keep focus on something other than my racing thoughts. As I lie there and she places her hands on my head I concentrate on my breathing, the sounds, and the sensation. After a while she moves her hands to the sides of my head, and this is comforting in a strange way. Then she moves to my neck area, and here I suddenly find I have a feeling of panic - it is not a specific fear OF anything - I don’t think she is going to strangle me or anything - but I have to really concentrate on my breathing before it subsides. For the rest of the session I am relaxed and calm - there is one awkward moment where her CD sticks, but apart from that it is a half hour of serenity.

I have meditated before - and know I would benefit from doing it more and more often. This felt like a really calming meditation, and there were only a few times when my mind wondered. During the session a picture came into my mind of a face hovering over me. Only the bottom half of the face was in focus, just the mouth and chin, and this apparition was somehow comforting and - well I’ve used the word a lot but it’s the right one - calming. And I also felt the warm light that is there in my higher powered moments showing me that all is well.

So, I have no idea about any healing issues, but it was certainly a wonderful experience and I’d be pleased to be my friend’s practice subject again. And in my web searching I came across this passage, which I really like and will end this short piece with:

Just for today:
Do not be angry
Do not worry
Be grateful
Work with integrity
Be kind to others and to yourself.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

We haz wind

It seems to be always windy here on the river. Today the wind is from the south, and I could tell that before I got up, just from the different noises the cottage makes.

A south wind hits the side of my place, and the big sash window that looks over the communal garden rattles - it was that noise that I heard in the night that told me the direction of the wind. The bathroom too is noisy with the wind blowing down the vent for the extractor fan. Up here on the top floor the kitchen window also faces out over the communal garden, and whilst it was not rattling, you could really hear the wind outside.

Up here in the main room I am just watching the trees being blown around - you can even see the grass on the lawn blowing in the wind!! Most of the trees I can see are evergreens, but there is one deciduous tree there barely hanging on to its yellowing leaves. And the birds are having fun trying for all they are worth into the wind, and not getting anywhere! But at least it’s sunny at the moment, even though the forecast says there is a 50% chance of rain.

Today is the first of my 2 night shift this week, so I need a nap this afternoon before that - I’m NOT going to try to do much between the night shifts as I did last week, when I got just SO exhausted!

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

The thing with the suit

Way back in a different lifetime - before I started sitting on the Dock of King’s Lynn - I used to work in an office, and the dress code was that men wore suit, shirt and tie.

When I first started work, I had just the one suit, and I had to wear this every day, but I always tried, even then, to have a different shirt and tie. Eventually, I got to putting on a different suit each day. Some people who do that have 5 suits, so the same ones turned up on the same day each week. Learning from this, I had 7 - this meant that I didn’t always wear a particular suit on a particular day. And I had a range of smart shirts and ties to go with them.

Now, for most of this time I was overweight - and I really didn’t like how I looked in a suit jacket - it looked to me more like a corset than anything!!!! I wore a suit every business day for most of my working life, and never, NEVER really felt good in them. Eventually my place of work moved to “smart casual” so the suits were relegated to the back of the wardrobe, only to be got out on high days and holidays.

And then all that life stuff happened, and here I was moving to Lynn with just what I choose to carry - and suits did not make that list! As anyone who sees me around town knows, I live nowadays mainly in jeans and tee-shirts. I do have a couple of smart pairs of trousers, a couple nice shirts, and a light jacket that I wear when these are appropriate, and, of course, my uniform for work - but a suit? Just not my style!

But then last week, I was going to a memorial service, and nothing I had seemed appropriate. CERTAINLY not jeans, and although the smart trousers would pass inspection, my jacket was way too informal for me to feel comfortable in. So I went looking for a dark jacket to go along with the trousers, but I saw this suit in one shop - and thought I’d try it on.

It was a revelation - I looked in the mirror, and there was this smart man-about-town looking back at me. It didn’t look like I had a corset on, even when I sat down with the jacket done up! I brought it, and also got myself a white shirt and a couple of ties. When I dressed for the service I actually felt good about how I looked - and as someone who rarely feels good about how they look, that was amazing:)

Now, I’m not about to start appearing at the Wenns in my suit and asking for a dry martini - I’m still a jeans and tees sort of person at heart - but somehow, I’ve grown into someone who looks and feels good in smart clothes too - isn’t life strange!

Tuesday, 13 October 2009


Where I live there are a lot of birds flying along the river, but I’m not at all knowledgeable about what is what - I’m not in any sense an avid bird-watcher. But I do have a good pair of binoculars, a camera, and most of all an interest in wild life, and so I took the opportunity this weekend to rent a car and head out to Welney Wetland Centre, to see what I could see.

Welney is something like 25 miles from me, and I set my SatNav to go the shortest route - this is always interesting as it takes me along all the tiny country roads. I was amused right away as it took me along the route I sometimes cycle out to Wiggenhall St Germans, but I was soon driving way past where I normally stop, and into deeper countryside. Out here there are a lot of roadways called “Droves” - normally long and straight roads next to a ditch, and often about the same width as my car! But it’s a fun route to drive, and you really see the countryside from here - and now I’m deep in the Fens the countryside is mostly reclaimed marshland - so the term “flat” really doesn’t adequately describe it!

Soon I’m driving along Ten Mile Bank (that is what the road is called!!) and see the Wetland Centre building in the distance - this is an interesting looking wooded building, but as I park and get out of the car I’m most struck by the sound of the birds - a real cacophony of different calls and a joy to hear:)

I guess my first question about the wetland centre was why was it here - what is special about this place? Well, as I’ve said before this area was all marshland before it was drained for agriculture, but even so, the area would be still subject to flooding from the river, so some areas were set up to allow for the flood water to go safely - these were called the Ouse Washes, contained by high banks on each side. Over time they became the habitat for a number of bird species, and in particular a home for migrating birds.

The Visitor centre is on one side of the road, and I climb up to the top level, to find a pleasant gift shop and restaurant, and I fortify myself with a cup of coffee before moving on. Then up some more stairs to a walkway that takes me over the road and onto the top to the bank. I do see that this whole thing is disabled accessible - there are lifts and the walkways are well made and level. Walking over the bridge I’m again impresses with the noise of the birds - what I know realise are Whooper Swans. I walk into the main observatory, and this is not like any “hide” I’ve been in before - it is warm and has large glass windows overlooking the main lagoon - and what a site!! I counted over a hundred swans before I gave up counting - and as I watched there were new arrivals flying in - really amazing to see them swoop down, feet first and smoothly sail into the water. The Whooper swans spend the summer in Iceland where they produce their offspring, and then they migrate down to the “warmer” climes of the UK for winter - Welney is one of the main centres in this part of the world for the swans to over winter.

These were not the only birds there by any means, but their size and noise made them the most noticeable as they squabbled and fed. Further away from us were an even larger number of lapwings, and when they took off it was truly amazing how they filled the sky, before wheeling round and landing again. There were also Brent Geese on one of the dry areas, and they would occasionally make themselves heard over the swans.

I stayed in this main observatory for some time with my binoculars, but then decided to take a walk along to the other hides that I’d seen on the map. I set off first to the south, towards the reed beds, intending to see if the “summer walk” was open - unfortunately it was not, so I’ll have to come back to go on that track. As I was walking along, the strap on my binocular case broke - they are very old binoculars, and the strap had just worn out over time, so I had to carry them for the rest of the day rather that having them wound my neck.

Turning around, I walked back past the observatory, and on along the track to the Lyle hide. This was a much quieter area - one solitary swan in the distance, but mostly plover and lapwings, with some more Brent Geese. As I watched there was another bird hovering - by looking at the books I believe it was a marsh harrier - some sort of bird of prey certainly from the way it was flying. There were also many types of duck here - too many types for my limited knowledge to identify.

It was know getting on for 1 o’clock, so I headed back to the visitor centre for lunch - I had one of their specials of the day - vegetable soup - and more coffee. It was not a particularly cold day - in fact I’d gotten quite hot when walking in the sun - but the soup somehow seemed the right thing for this outdoorsy sort of a day.

After lunch I set off to the north end of the walk to the Friends Hide. There are a lot of colourful dragonfly darting around, and as a few butterfly as well - this is a warm and secluded place for them to thrive! As I arrived, someone was coming out of the hide, and I had it to myself for a long time - I sat there and just watched the birds come and go for a while, and actually found myself drifting off in a kind of sleep, when I heard the door behind me and more watchers arrived.

I had read that they have swan feeding starting in October, so I went back to the main observatory to see if they had started yet. All this time I’d been aware that there seemed to be more people walking the paths than I’d seen earlier, and when I got into the observatory it was a lot more crowded than before - a lot of people with a lot of expensive looking photographic equipment. I found out that the swan feeding starts at the end of October, but I stayed watching some more anyway. And I saw what seemed to me an amazing thing, a couple of the swans were standing on one leg - and very un-elegant they looked too!!

In the end I decided it was time to leave, and I reluctantly crossed back over the bridge back to the visitor centre, and back to my car.

Welney is a really nice place and one I intend to return to again.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

A bad taste

As regular readers will know, I live by myself. Now, whilst I do have friends that I socialise with, sometimes I just want to go out to a restaurant by myself. And mostly, that hasn’t been a problem.

Until Tuesday.

On Tuesday evening I decided that what I’d like to eat was Chinese food, and sure, I could cook it myself, or I could get a take out - but really, it’d be nice to eat in a restaurant - not just for the food, but also for the general experience of being out and about and being social. Along Railway Road here in Lynn there is a Chinese Buffet restaurant, and I thought that would be idea - I could get what I needed from the buffet, and not have the things that don’t agree with me - it’d be fun:)

So I turned up at the restaurant just after 7pm I guess - I looked through the window as I arrived and saw that they had one group of people in a table by the window, but it looked like the rest of the place was empty - not surprising at this time of day I expect.

I walked in the door and waited, and soon a waitress come up to me and said “can I help you?” - so I asked for a table for one. She then walked me around the place, past a number of empty tables, and then told me that, as I was eating alone, she needed me to pay for my meal and a drink before they would serve me. I actually think I stood stock still with my mouth open for a few moments. Then I asked why, to be told it was “company policy”.

Well frankly, that policy sucks. I have no idea why I, as a single diner, should be singled out for this discriminatory action. Do they think I’m going to be disruptive? Frankly, one person dining alone is LESS likely to be disruption than a group of people. Do they think I’d run off without paying? That must be a danger with any table, why pick on me for this particular treatment?

Or is it just that they actually just don’t want my custom? Is it that they don’t want people eating by themselves in their restaurant? Of course, they are perfectly entitled to put any rules they like about who they will and will not serve. And if that was their intention, then they succeeded in not getting my custom that day - or any day between now and when hell freezes over.

I went home and cooked for myself, but it will take a while for that bad experience to leave me.

Monday, 5 October 2009

What’s in a name?

A while ago I was taken to task for referring to the place I live in now as “a cottage”. Well, you know, I can’t think of a better description - it’s not a flat/apartment as it’s a self contained dwelling with its own front door to the world, rather than being part of a block of similar dwellings - It could be called a house, I guess, but that - to me - implies something bigger than a 2 up, 2 down building.

And then that started me thinking about this whole thing around what we call the places we live in, which is additionally complicated by the fact that the Americans among us use different terms than the British (so what’s new there!!!)

The first place I rented after leaving my parents house was the top rooms of a house; we had a kitchen, bedroom and sitting room/living room/lounge (now don’t get me started on the differences there!!!!), and the owners lived in the bottom half of the building. We had one front door and one address between the two dwellings, and we shared a bathroom. I called it a “flat”, and I’m fairly comfortable with that description, except that it implies to me that we have private facilities - maybe “rooms” would have been a better description.

The next place I lived in (and the first place I owned) was a maisonette. Now, I’m not even sure we use that term anymore, but at the time it meant a dwelling that was self contained and had its own entrance to the world - it was this latter point that differentiated a maisonette from a flat: flats had some sort of communal area where you entered from the street, and then their own front door to the accommodation. At the time it made a difference - a maisonette was worth more than a flat!

Then I moved to a house - a “semi-detached” house, which means that there were two dwellings connected together - I had 3 outside walls and one party wall. The hierarchy of price is detached most expensive, semi-detached and then terraced least expensive. In terraced homes, all the houses are joined together - you just have two outside walls. But it doesn’t tell you anything about size or number of rooms or - well - much else really! A house can be 2 or more stories high - with or without cellar, but if it’s only one story, then it’s a bungalow. Bungalows can be detached, semi-detached or terraced - at least in principle I guess they can - I’ve never seen terraced bungalows, but I would assume they exist. And then there are Town Houses - these are terraced houses on 3 floors, often with a garage as part of the ground floor of the building.

So what is a cottage? Interesting question - I think the only way to distinguish it from a house is that it’s a smaller place, and the term has connotations of rural cosiness. So this is a cottage :)

So much for the UK - but when I turn to the US I get even more confused. The term “flat” that we use would appear to be translated to “apartment” AND “condo”. It took me a while to get this distinction in my head because when I talk of a flat, I’m talking about a physical type of dwelling, so a flat can be rented or owned. And so I assumed that this was the case in the US and looked for the difference between the building types. And so, when I saw two identical buildings, one of apartments and the other condos I was REALLY confused! But eventually I got it - there is no physical difference, but an apartment is rented, but f it’s owned, it’s called a condo!

Nor is that all! At least in the part of the US where I found this out, a bungalow is normally 2 stories, with the 2nd story being in the loft - if I had to call this anything in the UK, I’d guess I’d call it a chalet style house. I kind of think that “duplex” is what I refer to as a semi-detached - except that in New York they have duplex apartments and so, like the distinction between apartment and condo, I may well be getting confused.


Wednesday, 30 September 2009


I’ve been to Norwich a few times and done some sight-seeing, but today I was going to meet up with someone who has lived there for a few years, so this time I might see other things that are not so obvious. I started out mid morning to catch the bus, the X1 that runs across country from Peterborough to Lowestoft - my part of that route takes just under 2 hours. It’s an interesting trip in its own right, going across the open Norfolk farmland and into the tree lined villages and busy towns.

After about 45 minutes of the trip, I begin to wish I’d used the bathroom before I left, and by the time we arrived I could only manage a quick greeting to my friend before I had to rush into the rest room. (Some may think that Too Much Information, but I like to be real in my reporting!)

Once those immediate needs were met, I went out to meet my friend again, and then we set off to visit The Forum - this is a very new building and is on the site of the burnt down old library and it’s kinda reminds me of the shape of a Roman amphitheatre - a very round building with the entire from wall being of glass. It has the library and a restaurant in it, as well as the studios of one of the local TV stations. Leaving this ultra modern building we see the 15th century St Peter Mancroft church - a very striking contrast in architectural styles!

My friend tells me I need to see this shop she has discovered - it’s in a building that was once a skating rink. We walk past the fire station, and into turn into the area in front of the building - and the entrance is guarded by two Chinese stone lions. Walking into the store I am amazed - is this a shop or a museum? The walls are covered with oriental art and intricately carved wooded panels and fine statues - oh, and yes, some goods for sale too!! We spend some time admiring the fine historic items, all the time trying to look like we might want to buy something!!

Leaving there we went down through the market - and Norwich market must be one of the nicest I’ve ever been in - unlike most markets I know of, the “stalls” are not temporary structures that are moved at night, but fixed wooden huts, brightly coloured and bustling with people. I stop to look at The Cheese Shop before we walk on through the Victorian Arcade and then climb up past the castle and then down again and now we are out of the city centre itself, the place is roomier with lots more trees everywhere - the architecture is not as inspiring, more modern and utilitarian than old and interesting, but the general space and greenness makes it pleasant enough.

We head down towards the river and here we fins a gem of a building - called Dragon Hall it’s a medieval trading hall dating back to the 1400’s and restored wonderfully - not modernised, but still accessible. The main thing we go to see is the first floor Great Hall with an amazing crown post roof, and a carved dragon which, I guess, gives the building its name. Around the hall a lot of the buildings are derelict, and my friend tells me that you used not to be able to see the hall very well, as it was next to an old run down warehouse, but that is now demolished. And signs of regeneration abound in the area, the most striking being the new bright white foot bridge over the river here. Walking over this gives us a good view of the hall behind us, and in front there are new shops, restaurants and apartments - this riverfront are looks to be really booming! We head out to see the Norwich City football ground and then follow the river back to the riverside development, and stop lunch in an Italian restaurant.

This chain restaurant is very quite at this lunchtime - the places in the City itself will be bustling at this time of day, but out here the real busy times are evenings and weekends. Following lunch we stroll along the river some more up towards the Cathedral.

Norwich Cathedral is splendid in its Norman architecture, but both of us have been here before, so for today we just walk around the cloisters and discuss the air of silence that prevails in these places, even when there are many hundreds of people coming and going. My friend tells me that even the children attending the Cathedral school seem exceptionally well behaved! We spend a few minutes in the nave, then set out through the front entrance - where I notice for the first time that the archway of the cathedral gate frames a building that appears to be leaning over! Getting closer I see that this is true - this one building is at an angle to the others in the row of shops across the street.

We walk across the road and up over another of the hills that Norwich is built on, and through some quaint cobbled streets. And it is not just the road that is charming, all along the shops are small antique shops and similar nice places to browse.

By this time it is getting late, and we head back to the Bus Station, but stopping once more to have a coffee before heading our separate ways. By the time I get to the bus stop, there are a lot of people queuing for the X1 back towards Lynn, with more people arriving after I join the queue. In fact, I get a seat, but there are standing passengers by the time we leave the stand.

It’s only after sitting for a while that I realise how much I’ve walked today. And although we’ve only scraped the surface of the city, I feel glad to have seen some of the places that not everyone will have seen on a day trip to Norwich, as well as some of the more well known areas.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Palms and Kestrals

Whilst I was away on vacation, Autumn seems to have arrived here in West Norfolk.

Yesterday morning I came up to my living room here and was entranced by the early day-break scene - the sun was just rising behind me, and lighting up the roofs on my side of the bank. But out on the river, a morning mist was rising over the water - just swirling lightly as the breeze caught it almost like a reflection of the water as it slowly moved out to sea. The season of mists has indeed arrived.

Today has been a joyously autumnal day, and this afternoon I took a bike ride downstream for a couple of miles - I actually chose a bad time to be going out, as the local junior schools were just turning out, and the pathways were full of mum and prams and small people! But I was soon out on the top of the dyke, and was away from people for a while. I notice that the sunken ship is still there - the buoys around it now have a feeling of permanence.

Under the main road, and I come to the new - huge - paper mill that is nearing completion - the company operating it is called “Palm Paper” and as I ride past I’m amused to see that part of the landscaping they are doing is to plant palm trees!!! There is a lot of ground here, and hopefully the planting they are doing will alleviate the bright blue of the building itself - well, I live in hope! As I ride on top of the dyke, I see that on my left - between the raised path and the fence around the building - they have put down a layer of earth over the existing grass - this is flattened off and I’m not sure if they are going to plant this as well or..... well, I can’t see why they have done this at all!

I ride about 2.5 miles down to where the cycle path joins a country road, and decide to turn around here and turn back; sometimes I take the road home, but today it just feels right to keep to the off road paths. On my way back, I spot what I’m sure is a Kestrel hovering against the wind and watching for pray. As I get closer I’m sure it is a Kestrel, but each time I stop to take a picture it’s swooped away somewhere else. I stop a number of times to watch this bird of prey hover and swoop, and then it flies away from the river, over the path I’m on and up, up until it’s above the towering Palm Paper building. And then it lands on a small ledge way up at the top of the building - and I realise that this is not a just paper mill, to the kestrel it is a cliff face where he can perch and watch for pray!

I ride home smiling, that once again nature is turning what we humans do to its own advantage - how cool is that:)

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Temporally challenged

This is the thing - I don’t know what time it is. OK we all say that from time to time - or at least I do - and when I’ve said it in the past I’m thinking is it 11 o’clock, or 11.45? What I mean right now is, my body does not understand if it’s day, night, evening, morning or next Wednesday afternoon. So this is just because of 2 days of nights (you see - even my language has gone to pot!!) and I’m sure I’ll adjust - at least I sure HOPE I’ll adjust.

I got one of those e-mails in the post today - you know the sort - an inspirational live-one-day-at-a-time sort of thing, all about how each day we wake to a present of the present (I’m making it sound glib - it was good and thanks to the person who sent it). But my reaction was - I don’t know when my day starts. To the general population, it’s early in the morning, when they wake up - but early morning is when I get in from work and go to sleep!

Thursday evening I went into work at 9pm, finishing Friday at 7am and I came home and went to bed, and woke around 1pm, and got up then - was that the start of Friday? Then I pottered around the cottage for a bit, went over to Wisbech in the early evening (and, incidentally, kept falling asleep on the bus!). I got home and dozed in a chair for a bit, watched some internet TV, and then went to bed again at 3am, and woke today (Saturday) at midday. So as far as I’m concerned Thursday, Friday and Saturday all sort of merged together into a continuum of waking and sleeping, with no clear definition of “THIS is where the day starts.

And meals are another thing - during the Thursday night-shift, I had a meal at midnight (not sure if to count that as Thursday’s last meal, or Friday’s first meal), then an apple and a yoghurt at 3am. I ate again Friday around 3pm, and then after I got back home at 10pm. Today, after I got up at midday I was hungry and had a meal that might be lunch, or breakfast, or something else. All this is messing with my head!!!

And now, I don’t have another shift until next Friday starting at 9pm - it is great to think of 7 days off - but do I try to get back to “normal”, or stay with this “odd” sleep and food pattern? As I said when I was on vacation, maybe the best thing is to tune my body-clock to the Mid West time zone, which would mean I’d start work at 3pm:)

As I say it’s early days yet - maybe I’ll get used to it. Or maybe I won’t. Either way, the solution will become clear, somehow:)

Friday, 25 September 2009

What time zone am I in?

It’s been odd these last few days, with getting back from the USA and my new night shift job all mucking around with my perception of time of day. Here are some thoughts and impressions so far:

1) Going to work at 9pm just feels wrong - last night I was standing outside the store waiting for the door to be opened, being told by this slightly inebriated person that the shop was closed - repeatedly being told that - like I really didn’t understand the concept of “closed”.

2) Walking home at 7am is really cool - there are all these shops getting ready to open, people arriving at offices, and I’m going home to bed!

3) “Meal times” are extremely arbitrary. We get a break at midnight, and another at 3am. I knew I’d need one of my 3 meals during that time, so the first day I packed a salad to have at the midnight break, and found myself really hungry again at 3 - they do have vending machines in the store’s canteen, but they were almost empty of anything other than rattlely bag goods and sweets- which is something that went into the comments book!! The second day I took a fruit and yoghurt to have on the second break, and that seemed to work OK.

4) Sleep is a beautiful thing:) I’m grateful I live alone right now, so sleeping from 7am to midday, and then again from 3 to 5 is not a problem to anyone else

5) I’m really catching up on listening to podcasts!! Well, l’ve listened to about 18 hours of arts reviews, science programs, discussions and stuff like that - maybe I could learn a new language or something useful in the time I’m stacking shelves!

I’m feeling kinda disconnected from the world right now - some of that is because I’m awake when others are asleep and asleep when others are up, but more than that physical thing - I’m spending a lot of work time alone in my head. But these are early days - and my next shift is not till next Friday, so I get to have a lot of play-time till I need to wear socks again.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Back on the dock

Well, I arrived back in my cottage by the river yesterday afternoon - and my luggage turned up today as well:) I've been away about 3 weeks, during which time dusk has come forward a lot - it now gets to be sun-set around 7pm - the picture here is from my window just now.

The vacation was great, thanks for asking:) I had an exciting busy time in Missouri, and a restful and quiet time in Texas; now I'm back in Norfolk and tonight I start my night shift - hmmmmm - this will be "interesting" - just coming back here from Texas my body has no idea what time zone it's in - and this may well be a good thing for starting this now I guess - I slept good last night and then had a couple of naps during the day - we will see how I feel tomorrow!

One thing I have had to think about is - do I pack some food for my breaks? I'm working 10 hours, so I've decided that, yes, I need to do so, and so I've packed a salad, and will have coffee too during the night.

SO - wish me luck:) Maybe I'll write tomorrow - if I have the energy!!!

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

away from the "dock" for a while

For the next 3 weeks, I'll be wasting time on sitting on other Docks:)

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Time and Tide

This morning started well, with a call from a friend to go and watch the ferry cross the river. Now, that might not sound promising, but let me explain.

There have been exceptional high and low tides just recently and the town ferry - a tiny little craft that carries people between east and west Lynn - carries on regardless. On the Town side, there is a jetty that goes down into the water, and at most stages of the tide, the ferry goes up to this jetty for the people to get on and off. As the water level goes down, more of the jetty is seen, until at the lowest tide - like today - you actually get to the end of the jetty, and start seeing the riverbed. At times like this the ferry has to take a different approach.

First the ferry approaches the land as near as it can get, and then one of the crew jumps out of the boat into the water, and pulls it ashore. Now, since the boat is not up to the jetty, having pulled the boat as close as possible, he gets out a set of steps and puts these against the end of the boat for the passengers to use. At certain times, he also puts out duck boards for the passengers to get across the riverbed to the jetty, but he did not do that this time - maybe the sand there was dry enough.

The passengers got off and a few others got aboard for the return trip, and the crew man in the water proceeded to push the ferry back out into the stream. I have nothing but respect for this crew, out in all weathers and in all tidal conditions - the current here is so strong that just to go safely from one side to the other takes enormous skill, and yet these men make it look so simple and so routine.

Monday, 3 August 2009

Hanse Festival 2009- Sunday

On my early morning bike ride, I see that the stallholders along the Quay are already up and about before 7am - it is a bright day already and the rain from last night is only evident by the occasional puddle as I cycle along. Arriving back about an hour and a half later, I’m amused to be stopped at the entrance to the Quay by an event security guy who tells me I can’t come in as this is a restricted area!! “Restricted”?? I take it he means that they have closed the road to traffic, and I so tell him I live here, and he lets me through.

In the afternoon I set out again - on foot this time - and see that a lot of the same stalls are there, with a few extra ones. Today we also have a Falconry display - very cool to see these birds of prey up close. Walking along I see that they are starting to dismantle the marquee that housed the blacksmiths - and then I see that their project for the weekend is finished and on display. They have created a piece of public art if the form of a fish drying rack, with various fish on it - this looks really interesting, and I look forward to it being put on display.

Walking further and passing the aroma from the Sausage wagon, I queue to get on board the boat that is causing all this excitement. I don’t have to wait too long, and, as the tide is low right now, I walk down to the floating dock, and get my first close up site of the Lisa von Lubeck from the water line. Walking up the gangway, I’m immediately impressed by the bright shiny wooden planks. I also see that it’s curving away from me to the bow and stern, increasing the impression of height to the two ends of the boat.

First I go into the cabin in the back, and look at the explanatory notes - all in German, so they don’t mean a lot to me. From here we can go down some steep steps into the hold of the boat. I do this and am surprised to see it’s furnished with benches and tables, and has a bar selling German beer! Climbing up from this I then go up more steps to the stern deck, with its wheel that everyone just loves to turn. Standing here looking down the river it’s hard to imagine that this is real, but this would have been how the craft of that generation navigated across the seas.

Climbing back down, I go across the deck and up to the Bow section of the boat, complete with brass bell - which people love to ring - and anchors. Standing right at the bow gives one an unusual view of the Great Ouse as it disappears into the horizon.

The mid section also houses a bar selling German beer - they obviously know how to please the people of Norfolk - and is arranged with chairs. I sit there for a while enjoying the feel of the boat and the slight swell that we have - really only apparent when I look at the quayside and see it moving up and down.

And then it’s off the boat, and I take another walk the length of the Quay - down at the Square they are dismantling the stage. I’m about to return home when I see a friend also out walking, so we walk together for a while, both saying how great it is that the Quay is being used. Most of the time I’ve lived here in Lynn, it’s just been a car park - this shows that people will come to enjoy themselves if there is something of interest for them. I hope to see more use of this area, even if it does mean my quiet corner gets busy from time to time!

I see that the boat is due to sale out on the high tide on Monday at 2pm - unfortunately I’ll be at work then, or I’d have been sure to be seeing her off and wishing her well on her voyages.

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Hanse Festival 2009- Saturday

As I get back home on Saturday afternoon, I see out my window that the Quay is buzzing with people, and whilst I’m getting changed and drinking coffee I hear the sound of drums from out there.

By the time I get out the drums have stopped, but there are certainly a lot of people around. I’m “amused” to see that one of the charity stalls have set up a table and chairs right outside our front gate! As I walk up the road, I see some women in bright costumes walking in the opposite direction, followed by people carrying drums - this must be the band I heard and I hope I didn’t miss the performance. I look round the stalls - more than there were on Friday, and some interesting items on sale. Right outside there is a clown and his “dancing bear” on a lead - this lead is given to one of the young watchers, and he’s asked to “look after my bear”, who promptly starts to walk off pulling the child behind! (I would point out that this was a person in a bear costume - no animals were hurt in the production of this blog.) Further along there is a Punch and Judy show just finishing the performance to cheers and applause. I turn back at the end of the quay to come back, and the Punch and Judy man is wheeling his booth along and amusing the children as he goes by pretending to charge them and generally adding to the frivolity of the event.

As I’m walking towards the Square, the performers with the drums are just starting another set - I find out that this is the King's Lynn Community Samba Band - a lively group of instrumentalists and dancers. This seems to be their last piece, as they pack up and move off after this dance, and I’m glad I got a chance to see them.

Then I go on down to the square, where they are setting the bandstand for the group playing tonight, and there are a few people just sitting around on the chairs drinking coffee and listening to the piped music. I take advantage of the market being here to get French cheese and olives - I try some “Mexican style” olives which sound different - they are indeed different and HOT!.

Later it begins to rain - a heavy consistent rain that makes the air smell sweet and fresh. I take my umbrella and walk along to the square - the flashing lights are on in the bandstand, and it looks like the band are sitting in their bus and drinking coffee from the one food stall that is still remaining open. A shame for them, but that will always be a hazard for open air events I guess.

Hanse Festival 2009- Friday

By Thursday evening, the area along the Quayside which is normally full of parked cars had started to have some wooden structures put up - more like beach huts than anything else - and Friday morning as I went out to work early I saw that all along the Quay there were signs of things about to happen.

Coming home in the early afternoon I walk down to Boal Quay and see that the Lisa Von Lubeck has its sail unfurled, with an emblem of a black eagle looking majestic in the stiff breeze we have today. Coming back towards South Quay there is a long marquee with a blacksmith working on forging iron designs, and they also have a smaller area where children can beat out their own ironwork and take it home as a souvenir. This is with real hot coals and red hot metal - if it wasn't only for kids I might have a go myself!

Then along the Quay there are various stalls and amusements, and also some charity stalls. There is the expected olive, nuts and cheese stalls and fast food stands and also a fresh cake stall, which seems to be a magnet for every bee and wasp in the county - there are certainly a lot of them! Further along and into King Staithe Square and the stage is being set up for music tonight, and there are still more food stalls.

The weather recently has been changeable - but Friday evening is calm and mild - nice for walking along the Quay in a tee-shirt. It’s getting dark now, and I understand there will be fireworks at 10pm, so I set off sown the Quay about 9.30. Most of the stalls are closed, or moved, but there are still plenty of people around walking up and down. I walk down to the Square, and there is a band performing - a group of guys in dark suites and bow ties, playing a wide variety of music. The food stalls are doing a good trade, and I assume that the novelty light people are too, judging by the number of light sabres and - hmmmm - what would they be called? A kind of rope made out of lights that kids wave energetically about.

I find out that the fireworks will not be on till 10.30, so listen to the music for a while, and then move back down the quay to wait for them to start. The clouds are moving across the moon, but still it shines off the river - it is now almost fully dark, and the closed up stalls make it darker than normal on the water side. I just stand and watch the lights on the water for a while, and then there is the first bang as the fireworks start. This is an exciting display lasting for maybe 5 minutes, and then I head back to bed - unfortunately I need to be up at 5am to go to work in the morning!

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Hanse Festival 2009 the “Lisa Von Lubeck” arrives

I’d read in the paper that the replica of a 14th century trading ship - the Lisa Von Lubeck - was coming into the Boal Quay at around 2pm today, so was getting ready to go along and watch it. Just before 1 as I was sitting here doing e-mail, I heard a loud BOOM!!!! from outside. Whatever you may hear, this is not normal in King’s Lynn, and I look over and see that the crowds were beginning to gather along the Quay side. So I decide to finish what I’m doing and go out and see what’s up - and then I hear another loud BOOM - and there is this boat on the river just outside my door firing its cannon!!

I grab a couple of snaps and rush out my door - by the time I get outside and to the quayside it’s passed me, but I still get a pretty cool view of it sailing along. As it approaches Boal Quay it turns across the stream to reverse into its mooring spot and I get a few good shots of the boat - the thing that really stands out for me is the way the front and back - the bow and stern I suppose I should say - are high, but the mid section is very low in the water. There are three masts and on the central and forward ones are huge lookouts that really seem like something out of a pirate movie! The boat is obviously travelling under power, although I can’t hear anything of the motors, and as it comes in to dock it’s cannons BOOM once more. There are sailors dressed in red period costume on the bow but I don’t get too good a view of them.

There are crowds on this side of the river, and more on the other, and some of the children appear to be scared of the cannon, and others just want to know when they can go sail on it! I walk along to Boal Quay where it is being moored, and look back along to South Quay - I don’t recall ever seeing this many people here before! The Lisa Von Lubeck has been followed by 2 tugs, and these now speed off down stream and people start to disperse. There is an awning being put up down by the warehouse, and it looks like this is going to be some sort of kitchen by the equipment being put in.

The day has been cloudy and in the distance we can see rain falling and it looks like its moving this way, so, since I rushed out without my umbrella or a coat, I hurry back inside. Just in time as it soon starts to thunder and rain, and the wind is really strong again. It’s sobering to think that boats like that used to be arriving and departing from this Quay that I live on every day of the week and setting out for far distant lands. What is now a quiet riverside backwater was then the centre of trade and commerce, and King’s Lynn grew rich on that influence.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Whales, boats and cows.

It’s a cloudy day, but the forecast was that there wouldn’t be rain, so I went out for a bike ride - one of my normal routes along the river bank to Saddlebow and back which is mostly on cycle paths, and only goes on a few country roads.

I cycle to Boal Quay and as I turn the corner I see a whale on the bit of green in front of me! No, it’s OK I’ve not been on the funny mushrooms - it really is a whale - well, a “model” of one about six feet long. At first I think it’s topiary, but I see that it’s actually a solid construction, with some sort of green covering over it. Then as I cycle along the road there is one on the green next to the garage, and another on the area opposite that. No signage that I could see saying *why* these had suddenly appeared - maybe it’s to do with the Hanse Festival next week? Well, more may (or may not) be revealed.

Soon I’m onto the riverside path, and going towards something I’ve seen in the distance from the quay - I took it that it was some sort of structure, although it did look a bit like the mast of a boat. It is fairly low tide now, and I can see what it is - it IS the mast of a boat, and I can see a part of the roof of the wheel house too. One more unexplained sighting, but at least I understand what I was seeing from the distance now.

The cycle path goes along on top of the dyke built to contain the river, and the part right outside the town is a sloping grass bank into the water. As one goes further out of town, and under the road bridge, the path is still up high, but there is a slope down to a flat grass area, before going down further to the mud banks and the water. As it happens, last night around the time of the high tide I came over that road bridge, and it looked to me like the water was higher than normal, and that it had come onto the grassed area. As I peddle along this part of the river, I see that my thoughts were right - there are still pools of water down there in places, and out by the paper mill - where the grass has been cleared - you can see the “high water” mark. I’ve only lived by the river for 6 months, but this is the highest I’ve seen the water rise, and shows that the defences are doing just what they were intended to do!

Along on the other bank, there are cattle grazing, and as I watch, one of them starts to walk off the grassed area, down the mud bank, and proceeds to drink from the river. Soon there are 5 or 6 cattle all drinking there, and I wonder if this is normal behaviour for cattle - and if there is a danger that they won’t be able to get back up the mud bank.

I carry on past the power station and out onto the country road to the village of Saddlebow. I don’t have any particular reason for stopping there, but it’s about a 30 minute ride, so it’s just a nice round trip. I stop the other side of the village, look up at the sky, and decide that the dark cloud up there may bring rain, so I turn around to go back home. First though, I clean my glasses and wipe my face - cycling through this area I always get hit by small flying insects: luckily, I learned early on NOT to have my mouth open as I cycle!!

Going back over the Ouse relief channel, I hear the noise of a motorboat - and see that there is a water skier out there - I guess this is a nice piece of still water to practice on. On my ride back I’m relieved to see the cows have safely made it back up to the grass land. Suddenly ahead I see the outline of a bird that is not one of the seagulls or doves I see all the time. I stop to watch, and am fairly sure it’s a Kestral as it hovers and swoops in the wind!

And so home - not an eventful ride, but an interesting one:)

Thursday, 9 July 2009

An anniversary of sorts

A year ago I arrived in King’s Lynn. It was the first time I’d ever been here.

Arriving by train you come along mile after mile of farmland - I remember thinking it was really flat around here, but that was what I was expecting to see. Having been out in the Fens now, I know that this area is not anywhere near as flat as that, but that was my impression from the train. All the way along on the journey I was sitting and watching the automated announcement tick off the stations till I arrived - the long fast stretch to Cambridge, then Waterbeach, Ely, Littleport. Downham Market, Wattlington, and then “King’s Lynn where this service will terminate”.

I strapped on my back pack, and started pulling my suitcase. This morning I walked back to the station and re-traced my steps - across the road and to Paradise Parade - what a nice name I thought when I saw it on the map. In fact it’s a service road for the backs of the shops, but it was the route I’d worked out. I remember walking into new Conduit Street, not knowing what to expect really, and finding it was pedestrians only, and quite busy - oh yea - and the brick paving made an interesting tempo as I pulled my suitcase along. I do remember seeing the sign for Tuesday Market place and turning into High Street, but today when I went that way it was obstructed by the tree there - guess that must have grown more in the last year!

Along High Street into Tuesday Market Place, and the hotel I’d booked into is on my right - the stage was set up for Festival Too, just as it is today - but I remember more flowers than I see now - is my memory tricking me? Or maybe those were unusual, or at least not repeated this year. I didn’t go into the Hotel today, but I remember my room - 1st floor, view of the side street. And I’m sure that after I dropped my bags I went down to look at the river - the Great Ouse that I’ve got to know so well this last year.

I spent the next week or so looking for somewhere to rent - moved to the hotel across Tuesday Market Place to cut down on the costs, and had moved into my first tiny flat before the end of the month.

A year - wow - in a way it seems like the blink of an eye - in a way this is somewhere so familiar now, that it’s a kind of home - it’s certainly somewhere I feel comfortable in, and I’m grateful that it made me feel welcome.

As for the year ahead, who knows where that is going to lead me?

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Festival Too - blast from the past

All week it’s been hot and sunny, but Saturday morning I wake to pouring rain - not a promising start to a day with an outdoor concert planned! I have some chores to do around the house so quickly get those out the way, and spend some time in the garden. There is mint growing outside the back gate, and each time I take my bike in and out the tires go through it - very fragrant, it’s true - but I think it’s time I cut this back, so I do this and trim a few bushes too while I’m at it.

It’s mid afternoon by the time I leave the cottage and head into town for some shopping, and by this time it’s dry and warm, although not the “heat wave” temperatures we had last week. My little place by the river is quiet, but as soon as I hit town I see that it’s really busy here today. As I walk through the High Street I hear fairground organ music, and then there on the corner is the organ itself. Next to it is a booth set up for a puppet show, although there is not a performance going on as I pass. Then there is sign that this vendor is selling rats - I’m relieved to see these are the joke plastic kind on a lead.

Round the corner towards the store I’m going to, and there is another puppet booth set up, this one in mid show and a group of youngsters watching the story of the three little pigs. Do modern children - with their diet of TV animation and real life drama, still get caught up in puppet shows, I wonder? Well it seems they do from the squeals and shouts from the audience.

The town is really crowded, and I start to get a bit annoyed at not being able to walk in a straight line - I guess this shows I’m getting used to living in a small town where there are not normally lots of people! I do stop and get some more local strawberries, before heading back to my own quiet area.

Later I head out again, and first I made a stop at Wenns, and a couple of drinks with my buddies there. They have a band tonight as well, who are starting to warm up as I leave to head out to Saturday Market Place. I get there just before tonight’s big act - the Bay City Rollers - are due on stage and the square is already quite full of people of all ages. Round the outside of the market place are some fast food stands, a helter-skelter, and a “ghost train” type of ride - but most eyes are on the stage as the Rollers are announced. To be fair, it is stated that it’s just one of the original group, but they will be playing the groups hits from the 70’s.

I wonder in and out the people milling in the centre of the square, and get up fairly close to the front - close enough to where the people are waving their tartan scarves in the air and dancing and singing along. There was a time when I wouldn’t have been seen dead in such a crowd, but nowadays I’m less concerned about how I look, and more about having some fun!

The crowd is good natured and very mixed in ages - some of these, like me, will remember the group from the first time around - many it seems had seen them live back in their heyday. But there are a good proportion of teens and early 20’s here too, who would not even have been born when the original Rollers were around. I stop first to the right of the stage and not too far away from the front, put down my bag and take out a cool can, and start to enjoy the experience. I notice a colleague from the store I work in and we acknowledge each other, although it’s too noisy and crowded to actually talk.

After a while I move across to the left and get somewhat closer to the stage - here the fans are even more fun - bopping and singing along to the music. As the current tune stops, one guy gives me a high five - for no apparent reason apart from shear excitement!! Two people in particular really seem to be getting into their dancing, and I become aware that a space is forming around them to give them room to jive and do their gyrations. Soon it is almost as much fun watching them as it is the stage!!

The band wind up their set, and we do the expected shouting, and they come back for one more number, a real rock and roll one that I for one really like, and then it’s all done. Turning round, it’s apparent that lots more people arrived after me as the market place is really full. However, it doesn’t take long for us to be heading our different ways, and I join the throng going towards the Quay, where a number of people are parked.

Turning into my gate, I stop for a moment to look at the nearly full moon, and listen to the silence - this is one cool place to live.

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Too One - Fireworks

Last Saturday was the start of Festival Too here in Lynn, with the first free concert and the opening fireworks on the riverbank.

Actually all day there had been street entertainers in Lynn itself - we have our regular, day in day out players - “Juggling Jim”, the guitar player, the flautist, plus those who come out only at weekends - the folk singer and the Mexican trio. But for Festival Too these are joined by more players, aimed more at families - well, at keeping the children entertained. I’d been working so hit the streets of The Vancouver Centre at 2pm on my way home, and there was a definite carnival atmosphere in the air - more people than normal, and I saw a clown and a real juggler, but frankly, after an eight hour shift in the store, I just wanted to get home and changed and have a rest!

But when I got home I saw that metal barriers had been put along the quay side, so after changing into something more casual, I went out to investigate. I live just inside the flood defences (actually, it’s the front garden wall of these properties!) and then there is a small one way street, parking spaces, and then a path, before you get to the water’s edge. All the way along the water’s edge is now a line of waist-high barriers - the type you see used to line the route of a parade or something like that. I follow this all along the bank to King’s Stathe Square, where the Purfleet joins the Great Ouse. Here there is a hive of activity, with awnings being out up, burger vans being set up, and all kinds of vendors getting ready to - hopefully - sell their wares to the public. This promises to be at least interesting, so I go back home to have a rest before it all starts.

So it was later that evening that I set out again, and first I visited Wenns, were I got into conversation with a couple of the regulars and the new landlord about the Festival, the Fireworks and all that. Seems that last year the fireworks were washed out by the weather, and there had been occasions when it was foggy and one could only hear, not see them. I looked at the weather - it had clouded over and there had been a few spots of rain earlier, but it looked as if it was set to be a fair evening. I mentioned seeing the barriers along the river side, and this lead to one of those exchanges that can only happen in a small town. My friend I was talking with said that maybe it was because a certain person was back in town. I was about to ask what this was about, when a voice from the other end of the bar said What? Is SHE back? Seems there was a lady who quite notorious in these parts for throwing herself into the river at every opportunity - she’d been rescued a number of times - once by the Lynn Ferry as it went back and forth - but she’d moved away and not been seen for a few years. We talked about this and other characters of Lynn life for some time, every so often coming back to the festival, and the acts that had appeared in the past.

But soon it was time to move on, and I walked out and along to the Quay, where there were many more people walking about than normal. The road had been closed off to traffic, and as I approached King’s Stathe Square I could hear the sound of the band. They were called Mister Pink - more a genre band than anything - they played rock classics, and also some of their own music. They are fun, and are a good set of performers who don’t take themselves too seriously, but do take the performance seriously - a good balancing act to do. It’s getting towards dusk as they play, and they are in an enclosed stage area with their backs to the river - so they can’t see what we the audience can - a group of 4 micro-lights come into sight following the river, and start circling and generally showing off for the crowd. This is not part of the festival - just one of those random happenings that is “normal for Norfolk”.

There are a good few people in the square, and the vendors are doing a brisk trade. Over at the wine bar that is on the Square they have a barbecue going, which is doing a brisk trade, and judging by the glasses I see around, their bar is also doing well! For myself I cheat - I walk the few minutes back to my cottage, collect a couple of cold cans from my fridge, and go back to rejoin the crowd, having also used the bathroom. This is one big difference I see about events like this in the UK and my experience of them in the US - in the States, there are inevitable a line of portable toilets (which we call port-a-loos, and in the US are called port-a-potties), but it’s rare to see them here except at the biggest events.

And so I go back to the square to enjoy the rest of the music and to watch the crowd and be part of this event. The lead singer/guitar player has a trick or two to entertain the crown - his guitar is on a roving mic, and he comes into the crowd and walks around playing to the people. And at one point, flames start coming from the end of the guitar - it’s OK this IS a trick - corny, but kinda cute. The band play their “final” number - and we applaud and shout - and they come back for their (expected) encore and it’s a generally good event.

Dusk has been coming on, and we are told that the fireworks will start soon, so we all start walking along the quay - in my case, to right outside where I live! The fireworks are set up on the opposite bank, and it’s now clear to me why the barriers are there, as people line them to watch the show. I’ve seen the multi-million dollar firework and laser show at Disney World, and certainly this is not in that league! But it is a pretty decent display, and having fireworks over water always make a great show. It’s really not possible to explain why fireworks are fun - the noise, the vibration, the lights, the smell - all these things come together to make it a spectacular occasion.

And then when it’s done, and time for people to go home, I’m just 30 seconds from my door - how spectacular is that!

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Blue on Blue

Each day when I climb the stairs and come and sit at my desk here, overlooking the Great Ouse, the river is different. As I look now it’s just about high tide and there is just a slight movement of the water from right to left - that is, up-stream. The visible currents and eddies that are there when the tide is rising or falling are gone, and are replaced by a gentle rippled effect of the wind. Strangely, there is one spot of white - a sea gull resting on the water and moving slowly with the tide. The rest is blue - a serene and calm blue.

Looking further I come to the other shoreline - now at high tide the mud flats are covered with water and all one can see is the top of the dyke bank, which is grass covered. The other side of the bank are trees - I know that there are houses there too, but all I can see from this vantage point are the tops of trees - one rounded oak stands in the centre of my field of vision, to its left the spiky tops of some sort of fir tree, and to its left what looks like a double crowned tree - maybe an ash? - but in reality will most likely be two trees close together.

And then the sky - the blue hazy at the horizon, but deepening as I look up - a totally blue sky this morning with not even the hint of a cloud. It looks like this will be another bright day here in Nelson’s county. There are just a few birds - mainly common and black headed gulls - swooping around and down to the water - never actually landing, just swooping.

And signs of human life are starting to appear, someone walking a dog on the opposite bank, a fishing boat going out to sea, and on this side of the bank, more cars going past, and pedestrians passing.

Even in the time I’ve taken to write this, it looks like the tide is now slowly starting to go out, although without the drifting seagull to show direction it is difficult to be sure. But one thing is for sure, I will never get bored of the changing faces of the river.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

A changeable day

It has been outstandingly nice weather recently - a friend here told me a while ago that when is it nice in Norfolk it is amazing, and I am coming to see what he means:) When I woke up and looked outside it looked another pretty day - some puffy white clouds around, which enhanced the blueness of the sky.

Outside my bedroom window are some wonderful red roses which have been making me smile for a few weeks, but the flowers right by my window need to be dead-headed, so I did that, watered the tomato plants and the planters. Then I came in and did some e-mails, whilst watching some fishing boats going out to sea - I’m still a city boy at heart, and it just thrills me to see this happening right outside my window!

I’m due into my part-time job at noon, so have a quick check of the weather forecast - it says for the next few hours that there is an 80% chance of thunderstorms - but right now it’s bright and sunny and heck - I can’t go out in a coat on a day like this!!! So after an early lunch, I set off to the store where I work, and get busy with my job.

During the afternoon, I happen to be going past the loading bay, which has the big doors open - and I just have to stop and stare - the rain is so hard that it is forming rivers across the parking lot, and the one poor person I see out there is absolutely drenched! Soon, three of us are standing there watching the rain, and we all say the same thing - we had seen the forecast, but ignored it, because, how often is it right!!!

During that afternoon people come in the store with their wet umbrellas for a while, but it seems to stop quite quickly, and by the time my shift is over at 5, it’s dry and bright again - but there are still dark clouds around. I stop to get just a few items of shopping, and then head out home - and as I walk the 10 minutes home, it gets darker and darker. I’m about 3 minutes from home when the first drops of rain start, and I jog the best I can with two shopping bags, and manage to make it indoors without getting too wet. And just in time, as the heavens open again - looking out from my window I can see the rain sleeting down, and hear the water hitting the conservatory, the windows, and my roof too. At the side of my cottage I look out over the roof of an adjoining property, and the water from their gutters looks like a tiny Niagara Falls. Once again the storm is severe, but short, and soon blows over.

That evening I’m due to go out to meet some folk, and I normally cycle there - but cycling in a storm is not my idea of fun - I’m just considering this when my friend phones and asks if I’d like a lift there, and I gratefully accept. My normal route there is through a wooded are, and I look down this path as we pass it - the trees are now dripping down the rain they collected, and it does not look like a pleasant place to cycle.

We don’t get any more rain that evening, and I walk home around 9. By now the ferocity of the storms has gone, and we are left with the pleasant coolness and invigorating freshness of that after the rain period. Walking along the wooded path is a wonderful lift to the spirits, and even the occasional drop of water from the leaves is reasonably pleasant. As I reach the river, and the view opens up, the sunset is really something, with streaks of cloud lit up in shades of red and orange, and the open horizon filling the heart with joy.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Into the marsh

It was another bright and sunny early morning, just right for one of my bike rides. I’m not an experienced bike rider yet, and I’ve avoided riding through Tuesday Market Place for that reason, but as it’s 6am, I think that this would be a good time to try that route, and then I can head out along the path that goes down stream, and see where that goes.

Starting out I cycle along the Quay, and into King Street, and then across Tuesday Market, past the “pre-used” furniture store, and turn left by the docks. King’s Lynn still has a working dock, albeit a small one now compared to historic times, and it seems that the main product coming through is wood, with lots of stacks of different coloured planks visible over the fences. Also along here is a quay with fishing boats anchored - as it’s low tide these are currently in the mud, but I know from my part of the river that at high tide they will be riding high in the water.

Leaving the docks behind, I take the road alongside the river, which takes me past a few houses and a factory, before moving slightly inland. Here there is a hedge of trees to the river side, and then farm land stretching away to my right. As I pedal along the road becomes more rutted and uneven, and I cycle back and forth across the road looking for the smoothest line. Soon the field on my left gives way to a wooded area, and the path comes back up onto the river bank. It feels really like wild countryside out here, so I’m surprised to see a sign saying “Please drive carefully - free range animals and children ahead”, and then to come across two houses set in the among the trees!

By now the bank is noticeably high, with the river to one side, and the cultivation and wood land giving way to marsh land to the other. From up here the horizon seems to go on forever and it is difficult to judge where the water ends and the sky starts. Soon I come to a smaller path that goes down into the marsh, so I decide to take that, stopping first to read the sign. This marsh and the sandbanks that it leads to are an important area for migrating birds, and is a protected nature reserve. This piece of path takes me down to an observation deck, and even though it’s just a path, barely wide enough for my bike, I decide to ride down it, as I’ve not seen anyone else around all the time. The path gets really narrow, with shrub each side and I have to keep going as there is no room to turn around.

After a short while, the path turns right and the observation deck is there - a wooden platform just a couple of feet above the flat salt marsh leading a few yards to a couple of observation areas. It is still wet from the morning dew, or maybe from high tide water and I am a bit dubious about cycling across this, but decide to anyway. Half way along I stop to read a sign about the plant life here - it’s an area of land that is regularly covered with salt water, so the plant life has to be able to cope with that extreme environment. Then I start off for the end of the deck. At this point I discover that my initial caution may not have been misguided, as my tires slip, and I have to swerve to retain balance, only, the deck is not wide enough to swerve, and I end up falling into the marsh! I guess if one has to fall off a bike, falling into a soft salt marsh, at low tide, is one of the best places to do it, and only my pride is hurt!!

So I climb back onto the deck, pulling my bike behind me, and WALK to the end, and then walk back, till I’m on dry land again, then cycle back to the main path along the river. Up to this point the road has been potholed and rough, but at least it was a road - now the road surface ends entirely, and the path ahead is just a mud track on top of the dyke, and so really uneven. It is slow and hard going as I bounce along. I pass some sort of tower, with equipment on top - I take it this is a meteorological station of some sort, and then the path stops altogether as a smaller stream joins the main river. I get off the bike, and walk down to where the grass gives way to mudflats, down to the top of the high tide zone I guess, and here in the mud are all sorts of animal tracks - mainly the webbed feet of different birds, but also some paw prints. Once again I am shown my own ignorance of animal life, as I have little idea what all these are, but even so I am enraptured by the beauty of it all, and just stand and be for a while.

After a time I climb back up to the path, and retrace my route along out of the marsh to the farm land and then the docks, and emerge back near the centre of town. I’ve been out less than an hour, and so rather than go back home, I take the road out of town. Had it been later, I don’t think I would have followed this route, as it’s a busy road, with lots of trucks and cars leaving their fumes behind, but today it is really quiet, and fairly pleasant to cycle along. Soon I am out of King’s Lynn and into South Wotton, and I pick up a cycle path to Sandringham, which allows me to ride off of the main road.

I follow the path as it takes me across the main road, and then out to side roads as it goes to North Wotton. Here the village is starting to wake up, and I pass a number of people out walking their dogs, or strolling with children, and everyone says good morning - the real sign of a village community. The cycle path varies between village streets, paths between buildings, and then out across Ling Common. This is as far as I want to go today, so I stop for a few moments and admire the pyramid here. I also wonder why a pyramid - reading the sign I see that it was erected to celebrate the millennium, with funds raised from the village.

Then I start out back the way I came until I see a sign that takes this cycle path to Lynn, but a different way than I came. So I take this, and it is a neat path that runs through countryside to a sports centre. It then runs across a road and I’m not too sure at this point exactly where I am, until it gets to a wooded path that runs alongside the railway, and I begin to get my bearings again. Soon enough we get to a railway crossing, and there are The Walks, so I no longer need to read the signs as this is my home territory.

I’m soon cycling along the river again and then back to my cottage - a round trip of a couple of hours, and it’s still only 8 in the morning! What a great way to start the day, experiencing the wide open wild flat lands, the river, villages and even an impromptu dive into the marsh. Who could ask for more?

Monday, 8 June 2009

Sunny Hunny

It is a Sunday and promises gloriously sunny weather, so I decide to head out to Hunstanton for the day.

There is a direct bus from King’s Lynn that runs once an hour, and I turn up at the bus garage 10 minutes early, and there are already a few people waiting, including a family with 3 small children, who are getting increasingly excited as we wait! The bus arrives and the excitement is too much - one of the youngsters squirms away and jumps aboard the bus in front of everyone else. The ride is mostly uneventful, but we do get into a traffic jam as we approach the town, and are delayed by about 20 minutes. As we get closer to the centre, I notice the big parking lot next to the fun fair - and remember my trip here a few weeks ago when it was cold and damp, and there were only 4 cars in the lot, and a duck and ducklings wondering around. Today I’m hoping the duck found a quieter place to be, as the lot is nearly full, and it’s only 10 o’clock!

Getting off the bus, I’m reminded that the tourist board call this Sunny Hunny - and it IS gloriously sunny, and the sky and the sea are amazingly blue. But. It is still windy! I’m just wearing shorts and a tee shirt, and feel momentarily cool - but not for long as I start to mingle with the crowds that head out for the beach.

Hunstanton used to have a pier - this went into disrepair and suffered from a fire some time ago, but where it used to be is a building with amusements and really looking like it should have a pier attached to it! Nearing this I see lots of motor bike - I mean A LOT of them - many people in biker leathers sitting in the sun and mingling with the crowd of day trippers. Walking past these I start off along the promenade - and this has a real “English seaside” feel to it - lots of stalls selling seafood, ice creams and candy floss, hot dogs and coffee, and the inevitable gift shops with cheap souvenirs and buckets and spades - and sun screen and wind breaks, both of which are selling well! On the beach, they even have an area of pony rides, something I’ve not seen for years!

Walking along I see an amphibious vehicle near the beach, and tracks in the sand looking like it comes and goes - oh wow! a “duck tour”!! Yes indeed, they use these old WW2 landing craft for tours, and there is a tour of the Wash due to start in 15 minutes, so I buy a ticket and wait. Soon I see the craft out in the water coming closer - the “Wash Monster”. It comes right up to the promenade, and the front opens down to allow passengers to just walk straight off the craft onto shore.

We soon board and are off for our tour - just a 30 minute ride - that drives for a long way, before it has to engage its propeller and become a craft. Its crew give the appearance of older generation “sea dog” types, and it’s quite odd to see one doing the “the exits are this way” hand signals which one normally see airline stewardesses doing! This trip takes us down to Old Hunstanton, and gives us a great view of the cliffs, which are pretty amazing with a white top part, and then a very clear divide line to dark reds below. We also get a view of a much newer structure - the big turbines that are the entrance to the wash, harvesting some of the wind - at last! A good use for it!

Returning back to land, I start to walk back the way I came, and along the shore line towards the cliffs. As I go I see that the tide is going out and that more and more sand is becoming visible, as well as some of the sandbanks that are a feature of this area of coast. Looking back, I see the Wash Monster has started on a new cruise, this time out to the sandbanks, where people can get out and walk in the middle of the sea!

Eventually the promenade gives way to a normal road, and then I go down onto the beach itself - and my sandals come off so I can feel the cool sand between my toes. In this part of the beach there are moss covered rocks at low tide with tiny pools between them, before you get to the sand and then - eventually - the sea. This is a great area for adventurous young children, and the air is filled with excited squeals as another 5 year old comes face to face with a live crab for the first time. They may only be tiny crabs, but they are alive and move, and I just have to smile at the excitement they cause. I walk way out to the sea, crossing areas of sand that are alternatively dry and wet - you can really see how the sandbanks develop, and how people can get cut off on the sand banks from time to time.

I climb back onto the path, dry my feet as best I can and put my sandals back on, and start looking for somewhere to have lunch. I can see a cafĂ© on the cliff above me, and a path there, so I climb this, and although it looks like a nice place, and has a decent menu, I’d have to be indoors, and it’s much too nice for that, so I start down the path back to the town. There are a couple of other places that look OK, but I decide that what I really want is a picnic, so in the end I go into a supermarket and buy a ready made meal and a drink, and come back out onto the grass above the “pier”, and sit there to have my late lunch.

This is blissful - sunny, warm and relaxing, and when I finish eating I just lie there and watch the bikers, the people playing ball, and the sea gulls swoop and glide in the breeze. After a while I realise that I’m actually getting too hot, and maybe a bit sun-burned, so I spend a while looking round the souvenir shops, before heading back to the bus station to get the bus back to Lynn. It’s quite late arriving, and I’m really hot and bothered by the time it arrives, and then it is further delayed by an “incident” on the main road back home - but I sit and doze on and off and watch the countryside go past, and get home eventually.

Hunstanton is a fun place for a day out - and I’d like to go and watch the sun set into the sea one day, which is not something you can often do from an east coast resort!

Hunstanton is on a piece of water called “The Wash”, which feeds into the North Sea. The Wash appears like a large indentation in the coastline of the map of eastern England, it’s formed by a large bay with three roughly straight sides meeting at right angles, each about 15 miles (25 kilometres) long. It has a long sandy beach which is very flat, so when the tide goes out it goes out a LONG way. One interesting geographical thing about Hunstanton is that, although it’s on the east coast, because of the curve of The Wash, it actually faces west! For anyone interested, here is the Wiki listing for The Wash: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Wash

Friday, 15 May 2009

Morning has broken.

A couple of days ago I was awake for no obvious reason around 4am, and noticed that the sky was already getting bright. By 5 it was looking so nice outside that I decided to jump out of bed, throw on some clothes, and go for a dawn bike ride.

I start out along South Quay, and the tide is low - very low and at a bend in the river the mud flats are covered with sea birds. I take the loop around Boal Quay, and then am back on the cycle path that runs along the Great Ouse. The sun is barely over the horizon and I peddle vigorously to get warm, and soon I’m out under the main road - already busy with commuter traffic - and slow down as I see a pheasant on the path ahead! I’ve never seen pheasants on this path, but I assume they are in the fields around. Soon the cycle path leaves the river and goes onto a track through farm land with hedges on both sides and I slow and stop to watch rabbits hop away, flashing their white tails at me as they do, and more pheasants in their bright feathers. Out here it is peaceful, majestic and wonderful - and I can even ignore the paper mill they are building behind me, and look out over the fields instead.

I get to the end of this lane, and the cycle route now goes out onto the country roads. Normally I’ll take this back, but I don’t want to lose the freedom that I feel right now, and having to be conscience of traffic would do that, so I just turn my bike and go back the way I came. I am new again to biking after maybe 30 years, and still a bit cautious and there are these barriers that are, I assume, meant to stop cars coming down the cycle path - they are about 6 feet tall, wide at the bottom and suddenly narrowing towards the top, they look like an inverted wine glass shape. They are about handlebar width plus 6 inches, and I've never felt confident about riding through them, so have always got off the bike, walked through, and then got back on again. Well, this morning I decide it’s time to face that fear, and so I rode through them! I have to really concentrate to get it right, but I am getting there. In all I was out for about an hour and was really warm and sweaty by the time I got back home, I laid back down but couldn't go back to sleep, which meant I was really tired when I went into work at 2pm!!

- - - - - - - - - - -

This morning I sleep later, and when I wake heard a noise that I couldn’t immediately identify, and then I realised it was rain drops on my window. I put on my robe and go out into the conservatory - this is one amazing morning!! There is no wind and the rain is just a gentle falling of water - it reminds me of a hymn we used to sing “soft, refreshing rain”. The conservatory is all glass, and the sound of the rain on the roof is just the sweetest soft sighing. My little pond and bird bath are getting a nice fresh re-fill too, without my intervention for once. I notice that I’ve left the door of my shed open a bit, so go out to shut it - my feet get wet, but the rain on my head really is soft and refreshing!

Coming back in I stand in the conservatory just “being” for a while, and think I must have got wetter than I thought, as rain drips from my hair onto my back. Then it happens again, and I realise it’s not me, it actually is dripping in here. There are just a few drops of rain coming from the central point where the sloping glass panels meet. It’s not much, and I put a couple of pails down to catch the water - it’s certainly not enough to spoil this soft and refreshing morning.

As I sit here now at my desk looking out over the river it looks like the rain is easing off, and from a practical perspective this is good because I need to go out to work later. But the feeling, scent and sound of this mornings soft refreshing rain will stay with me, I hope, as I get into the practicalities of the day.