Boi Philup, was over from the US. An esteemed professor, expert in his field at one of the good US universities, he’s also a laugh and has a love of, and critical ear for, Norfolk-speak. Our greeting after many years went something like this:
“What ya say then boi?”
“Nuthun much. What ya say then?”
I wanted to show him the ‘SLOW YOU DOWN’ sign I’d snapped in Wiveton. He would love it. Imagine my surprise when he said he’d had the same picture pinned above his desk in Pennsylvania for over 12 years.
Great moinds think aloik!
We were meeting my schoolfriends for lunch in Norwich. This would be a fun international gathering... guaranteed to be a laugh. Our original plan was to meet David and Spanish wife Lolita. Hola! My delight at the prospect was compounded when it turned out that The Boi Philup and his Taiwanese wife Shu Ching were over from Pennsylvania. Nǐ hǎo! ‘Good timing boi!’ I thought.
Very close friends from years gone by, it was instant “A’roit bois” all round followed by laughter and long lapses into our own lingua franca, Norfolk. Time flew. “Ut do, doon’t ut?” mused Professor Philup!
St Andrews Church, Letheringsett, a truly beautiful Saxon church a few miles from where we were staying. After a final sortie to Cley Smokehouse, we drove on to return our cottage keys in Holt, then a mile onwards to the church.
Two days before Prince George and Princess Charlotte had been pageboy and bridesmaid there respectively, with another future king looking on. My own queen, Mrs H, was in heaven! And when we discovered it was open, we sidled in. The copious flowers were magnificent, from floral arch to church body. And I was a hero for taking her there.
Last day of our holiday. ‘Off hoom t’day boi.’ I tell myself, but not before a final visit to Cley next the Sea, the posh deli and of course the ‘smookhouse’! Off home via Norwich, for lunch with old schoolfriends, then Ipswich to see ancient mother-in-law. The latter provides an excuse to buy hot-smoked salmon for her supper... and smoked prawns and smoked pigeon for me!
There’s a pub, cafe, secondhand bookshop, the deli, smokehouse and a pottery with the punsterific name of Made in Cley. Right up my street! What’s not to like?
“Oh my goodness, we pass through Letheringsett... and yesterday when the Royals were there we went in the opposite direction!” Mrs H was mortified at having missed the opportunity to stalk a few senior Royals at the wedding yesterday of Kate’s best mate. Wills, Kate, George and Charlotte were there along with Kate’s folks. Little Charlotte was even bridesmaid.
“And it’s such a tiny place too!” added my lovely wife, one of the loyalist, royalist subjects. She didn’t know about the visit because it was kept under wraps until it was over. Lucky me... think I dodged a bullet there!
I love Cley Smokehouse, buying far more smoked fish there than sensible. I ate lots of whole, unfilleted fish, leaving lots of quality fishy debris - mostly skin and bones... perfect for fish stock. Stage 1 of fish soup production.
I drained the stock, threw in finely chopped vegetables, herbs, boiled and boiled. Unfortunately, without a whirly, liquidising zodger thing, I had to push it through a sieve to make it smooth. I wasn’t fully rewarded. I hate fishbones (remember kippergate?), but like cats, they’re unwelcomely attracted to me. The soup was delicious, but only I was blessed with unwelcome extras.
Today’s only agenda item was lunch! Posh lunch at a Good Food Guide 2019 Top 50 restaurant. We were Michelin starry-eyed! Sunday lunch; no choice except desserts... but who wants to choose anyway?
We arrived early.
First - drinks and canapés in the conservatory - Rosemary pecans, Gruyere Gougere, Scotch egg with Sauce Boudran. Mmm-mmm!
Appetiser - Mushroom Veloute. Fandabbydosey!
Fish - Plaice with curry and Sauternes sauce. Oh yes!
Main - Hereford beef, roasted vegetables, red wine jus. Jus perfect!
Dessert - Raspberry Soufflé and Creme Fraiche Ice Cream. Fully blown!
Coffee and chocolates.
Food: courtesy of Morston Hall; mortgage: courtesy of Nationwide!
The Norfolk way of speaking is very particular. Not just words used or that distinctive dialect so different from the West Country burr that mimics get so wrong, but the Norfolk approach to grammar. The dialect thing is all about vowels, especially the way they say ‘oo’ and ‘o’, but grammar is something different. It made me chuckle.
A wag from Wiveton, someone with a sense of humour... or a local communicating to locals... has placed roadsigns at every entry to the village with the following command ‘SLOW YOU DOWN’. I hear it as I read it, smile... and obey!
During the week we’ve been driving to and fro through Stiffkey, a delightful village, probably staying that way because the through road is narrow, without pavements. The traffic jams, particularly this week because a craftsman was rebuilding a lovely cobbled flint stone wall and the road was single track.
Flint cobble construction characterises walls and houses around here. It’s beautiful, with flint cobbles recovered from certain beaches. The flintmason’s work is meticulous and time-consuming.
However, this week, a passing coastal bus clipped the wall under construction, spoiling weeks of work. The driver narrowly avoided a kick in the cobbles!
“I am a Norfolk man, and glory in being so.” Thus spake Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson. “Me too!” say I, delighted that we both went to the same school.
His birthplace is Burnham Thorpe, one of many Burnhams in North Norfolk. His memory is everywhere.
Burnham Market, the largest Burnham is delightful. We sat alfresco at a small cafe watching the world go by... going by very fast as it was blowing a gale. They’re born tough up here...
I thought of Trafalgar, of Nelson, the wind in his sails, the fatal bullet and how he should have been hardy.
Mrs H was on tenterhooks. Would they fly into Cley, walk into Wells, stroll through Stiffkey, meander around Morston or bounce into Blakeney? Wills and Kate were here, somewhere. At a friend’s wedding near here. Today.
It’s so posh here, we wouldn’t be surprised if we bump into them anywhere. We must be on the lookout for signs of security men or the press rabble.
But it’s been kerfuffle-free round here today. The royal couple clearly weren’t planning to drop in on us and hadn’t asked us to pop over to their gaff in Anmer. A right royal rebuff!
I told you it was posh up here in North Norfolk. Venison, partridge, kippers, smokehouses, crabcakes, oxtail fritters, celeriac soup... all pretty posh! The contemporary, bronze-clad Maltings with the exhibition of local art was yet another sign of unquestionable poshness. The high price of parking, Michelin-starred dining and the regular presence of the Monarch and her other royal subjects must be the icing on the posh cake.
However, strolling up High Street in Wells-next-the-Sea, I saw a street performer entertaining passers-by. Not with guitar, nor harmonica. He was plucking a lute!
Now that’s posh!
Returning from an urgent trip to Wells for more partridge, we decided to drop into Stiffkey (pronounced Stoookey - it’s all about the vowels round here!) Stores for a coffee. Parking is challenging, but when you’re there, it’s well worth the effort.
Stiffkey Stores is wonderful! Part grocery, part general stores...but far from general. I could have bought everything in the shop; Mrs H almost did! I sat enjoying a latte, complete with floral patterned froth, while birthday and Christmas presents, and ‘holiday presents’ for the little ones were hoovered up.
Not much change from a hundred quid, but utterly brilliant!
I’ve discovered that Blakeney, Cley, Wiveton and Morston were the four Glaven Ports of huge maritime importance in mediaeval times. Think Southampton of today.
Trade with The Netherlands was plied, with Dutch architecture evident in Cley. The river Glaven provided safe maritime havens until longshore drift swept sand from further east producing the saltmarshes of today.
Interestingly, the Glaven is one of less than 200 chalk rivers in the World! Even more so is the fact that another runs through our own Hertfordshire village. Spring-fed, the chalk provides perfect conditions for wildlife.
Perfect for a wild boy like me!
I’ve seen it all! You’ve probably gathered that North Norfolk is a haven for dogs and their owners. Dogs I tolerate, but some dog owners I don’t.
Strolling along the straight path seawards from Wells-next-the-Sea harbour, we were overhauled by lots of eager mutts taking owners for a walk. We had no such pressure, we were strolling.
There were also young couples with babies in pushchairs. Now I like babies, always turning to take a peek at the little chaps. Imagine my horror when the baby in the green pushchair turned out to be a bloody dog!
Yesterday we met our friends Su and Lewis. (You know, the stalkers!) We met for lunch at The Bell in Wiveton, the next village to this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It was terrific and the perfect way to spend a rainy day. They had their dog in tow who was given a warm welcome under our lunch table until he went a bit arsey on hearing a thunderclap.
Oxtail fritters, pickled celery, celeriac soup and a bread and butter pudding to die for. We didn’t though... although with everything fried in beef dripping, maybe I shouldn’t speak too soon...
This week... our September break, was originally forecast for really good weather... warm, sunny, dry. Perfect!
Our reality has been an overlapping trio of hurricane and tropical storms. Some sun, lots and lots of gale force winds, and today, hailstones.
Hurricane Florence was super flatulent, whipping up wind and sand on our legs and faces, and anything else exposed to the elements. Thank goodness I wasn’t wearing makeup.
Storm Ali followed, being warm but so mean you had to lean into him to stay upright.
Today, Storm Broghan brought us a cold front, rain and more wind!
How many can it need? How many bones can the humble herring actually need?
I hate fishbones!
I’ve caught some herring in my time, ‘kippered’ them and even made a variant of kipper pate. They taste delicious... but those bloody bones!
I’ve caught even more mackerel, lively fish, darting and diving on your line, then flipping and flopping vigorously as they leave the aquasphere, flapping in the bucket. The mackerel deserves to have lots of bones... but doesn’t and those it has are easy to remove.
With that in mind, can you imagine my breakfast today of unfilleted whole kipper?
I’m on my own! Mrs H has decided she must cut out booze! For her health. From now on she’s tippling my homemade elderflower cordial, which I thoughtfully packed as we left home. My thoughtfulness wasn’t quite as altruistic as on face value it might seem. I thought ‘With all the booze I stashed in the spare wheel compartment, this might get me off the hook... marginally!’
My new dilemma is that having plentiful supplies of wine, gin and beer, I’m faced with two choices. Drink it all myself, or cart most of it home. Either way I’m in trouble!
It was difficult yesterday after an excessive lunch to feel hungry enough to eat the venison pies we’d bought from the deli later. But duty and meal schedule didn’t have much flexibility, so try we must.
The pies were wonderful, but our choice of vegetable accompaniment was restricted to what we’d had with the partridge the day before - broccoli, carrots and mash. But too full up from lunch to be arsed to go get something different, we acquiesced.
My biggest concern was what to do with the leftovers, knowing that kippers were scheduled for breakfast. So nothing was left over.