A year in Norfolk

In three weeks, I will have lived here for one year. In many respects, this time has gone very quickly, though in some ways, it has also dragged. I have not been back to London since I moved, and I have only been to Norwich twice. It would seem from this, that my craving for city life has diminished, and I am content to manage without regular trips to anywhere populous. There have been lessons learned, and attitudes changed, or in some cases, confirmed. It could not be more different to my previous life, in any way imaginable. I do actually prefer this life, on balance of all the pros and cons. I think I am more peaceful inside, a little more tolerant, and a lot more relaxed.

I haven’t done much though, I put my hands up to that. Plans to improve the garden, stain fencing, and re-plant borders, were all readily abandoned, as a result of the appalling weather. Interior decorations were not attempted either, but I can’t blame the weather for that; I don’t really know why I did not have the enthusiasm for it. Lack of skill is certainly one reason. If you are unhappy about the possible outcome, then you are less likely to start in the first place. Exploring Norfolk was also curtailed, by constant rain, cold, snow, and ice. I have lived in a small part of a large county for almost a year, and know little about what else is around me.

Getting to know people, and having a new circle of friends, was also planned, to complement our new life here. I have got to know a few people, though the ones I know best are from Scotland and Newcastle, or fellow ex-Londoners. With a couple of exceptions, I know very few local people, though those that I have met have been friendly enough. Truth is, we are different. Our life experiences, aspirations, opinions, views, and lifestyles, are as different as those of people from other countries. They are not really my kind of people, and I am certainly not theirs.  I see this as something that I have to be responsible for. After all, I chose to live here, so it is for me to adapt, if I decide to. I have to forget things like insufficient choice of local restaurants, and a lack of decent, handy shops. I must stop moaning about having to drive everywhere, and just get on with it. That is why I have chosen to do the volunteering jobs, as a way to meet more locals, and a requirement to get out and about a bit, and see more of the area. I hope it works.

Anyway, it would seem that a faster life will be catching up with me soon, even after only one year. The Council has just approved the construction of a large drive-through McDonald’s, and adjacent 50-bed hotel, on the site of a former fabrication plant. The town is buzzing with the news, as their previous access to the golden arches necessitated a 10-mile drive towards Swaffham, or a trip into Norwich. My somewhat patronising dismissal of this, as lowering the image of the town, was seen by locals as the opinion of a person who lived a life with burger joints on every corner, and did not want the previously underprivileged population of Dereham to enjoy something that I have had lifetime access to. Also, in a place with high unemployment levels, the creation of 150 new jobs, albeit minimum-wage, contract-less, and transient in nature, was seen as a great thing. I will have to learn to bite my tongue.

My impression of this area remains almost unchanged in twelve months. It is reasonably divided, between haves and have-nots. House prices are stable, and virtually unchanged in the last two years. Many young people will never earn enough to qualify for even a small mortgage, let alone put enough by to save the deposit. Older people struggle to manage and maintain properties bought cheaply enough many years ago; often resorting to selling off parts of their large gardens, and having to see another house built in front of theirs, to generate enough money to keep going. The main industry, outside of the large supermarkets, is Care Homes. As the population ages, and lives longer, young people have to work to look after them, and the attitude to working in this sector is totally different to that in London; and that is a good thing, obviously. Local Councils battle with old arguments, internecine feuds, and stubborn attitudes. ‘Greens’ want wind turbines, so long as they are not erected anywhere near where they live. Norfolk is windy and flat, so one of the best places in Europe to make good use of wind power. Despite this, planning applications run over into years of disagreements, about where the large machines can be installed. Old attitudes, traditional ways, and agricultural heritage, these are what rule in East Anglia. Could it be that this is right and correct, and should be encouraged? Perhaps…

Blogging has also been a part of my life change. I would never have done this in London. No time, nothing to write about, and other excuses, would have prevailed. Now, Blogging has become a large part of my life in the countryside, and I make the time for it. I feel that I need the ‘conversation’ of Blogging, and the reaching out for ideas and opinions, that is lacking in my everyday life.

To anyone who is considering such a change, I would offer this advice. Think carefully, as you will never be able to afford to go back. Change your expectations of life, to avoid any disappointments. Do it while you are young enough to be at work, have children at school, or you are planning a family. Then, you will meet your peer group, make contacts and friends, and perhaps feel that you belong to the community. After almost a year, I am still very much a man apart.

10 thoughts on “A year in Norfolk

  1. This resonates with me enormously. As a lowland Scot living in North Uist, I am very much an ‘incomer’. Friends I have made here are the same, mainly English, a few Scots from elsewhere, German, Slovakian, Australian but not local Hebrideans. There is a strong divide in part perpetuated by Garlic local culture and to some extent religion. I have no I interest in Gaelic and am an aetheist. After 6 1/2 years, I am very much a woman apart, as you describe, and extremely content with my own identity. Nothing will change and although people are generally friendly enough, I find the general attitude a bit parochial. I also don’t touch upon this on my own blog as the community is very small, about 1800 people. I love living here and the outsider friends I have made, but some of the cultural baggage is not endearing. I could just as well be from Nigeria, Estonia or the moon as from central Scotland and I had no real idea of the cultural divide between Gaels and lowland Scots before I moved here, even down to differences in sense of humour. BTW due to arrive at Kings X in an hour for a few days in London, can’t wait. There is a world out side Uist 🙂

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    1. Enjoy your stay in London, but don’t forget to watch your bag, and remember the golden rule- Trust No-One! ( Only joking, but not about the bag. Then again, I did work for the Police…) I like the way you describe the life in the islands, as it is very similar to my experience, though mine is more a state of mind, than overt differences. Like you, I am more than happy to be ‘alone’, and to hang on to my own identity. Thanks as always Tracy, regards, Pete. x

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  2. This moved me. Would welcome further opinion (another blog?) about your experiences and how opinions, aspirations and lifestyles differ so much that you would compare your peers to foreigners. Thanks for sharing. A x

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    1. Thanks very much for your comments. I may well e mail you with any further thoughts, as I would not want to cause undue offence, or ruffle too many feathers publicly! Regards, Pete.

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  3. Very true scarning itself Is not very “norfolkian”, thank goodness we are at scarningdale in an old farmhouse on 25 acres, which has a true Norfolk appeal to it. But very true that the people up here are a tad different and guarded compared to the normal Londoners.

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  4. My goodness, life as a young family up here is pretty similar. Although we havent reached the 1yr mark yet, still approaching the 3mth mark in scarning ( 3 miles from Dereham). What a terrible shame that the God awful golden arches are upon us.

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    1. Thanks very much for the comment Gerard (and you too Roland). I have had e mails about this as well, and I think that I may have come across a bit down about it. That is not the case at all, and I was writing this more as a commentary, than a ‘woe is me’. I am still fairly positive about things here, and glad that I moved. I don’t know Scarning well, though it seems like a large, modern estate, that could be anywhere in the UK, with no Norfolk feel about it, much like Beetley. As for me, I just feel that 60 years in London is impossible to undo, and so, it is what it is. Regards, Pete.

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