“Sit Anywhere You Like”

In 2015, I wrote about a trip to our local cinema in Dereham. I remarked that we were the only two people in the cinema for the film. At least until it had already started, when two others came into the auditorium and sat at the back. When we bought the tickets on arrival, the lady cashier said to us, “Sit anywhere you like”. Julie took a photo of me sitting there when we were the only two people waiting for the film to start.

A cinema experience

This morning, Julie’s ‘Facebook Memories’ included that photo.

A Busy Day In Beetley

I am not used to being busy. My life is usually unhurried, with a certain familiar routine that comforts me in my retirement. But when a holiday is on the horizon, there are things that need to be done.

So there was much activity chez beetleypete this morning, including a rare trip into the heart of Dereham. (Sounds impressive, but it’s a very small town)

Up early, in the bath, dressed and ready by the time I am usually contemplating my second cup of coffee. I left a glum-looking Ollie wondering why I was going out without him, and drove through the gloom and light drizzle. In town, I was very lucky to find a nice big free parking spot right opposite the bank, my first destination.

As I do not yet cooperate with ‘Internet Banking’, occasional trips into the branch are necessary. This time I had to transfer funds from a savings account into a current account to ensure there was enough to pay the bill on Saturday week. Then there was a standing order to increase, and a transfer payment into our joint account. Second stop was across the road, to ‘Abigail’s’. This is a privately-owned gift shop that also sells a range of greetings cards.

When we are on holiday, it is our wedding anniversary on the Friday, so I had to make sure I had a card to take.

Back in the car, and less than a mile to the nearest supermarket. It has a petrol station attached, and I wanted to fill my car to the brim with diesel, ready for the longer than usual drive coming up. After waiting behind two cars, I was frustrated to discover that the diesel pump in that lane was ‘Out of Service’. Not wanting to drive around again to a different lane of pumps, I drove just over a mile to a much bigger supermarket where I was able to fill up immediately with no issues.

(*Worth noting here that the fuel prices have increased dramatically. The cost to fill my car has gone up from £55 to £63 today, in a matter of weeks)

Time to go back home. A very early lunch, followed by Ollie’s dog walk. (In light drizzly rain of course) After that, I had to fill the garden waste bin with hedge cuttings, so it can be left out for collection while we are away. I also sorted the regular waste bins while I was at it.

The time was now fast-approaching 4pm, and my next task was to iron the clothes I am taking on holiday. With chilly weather and occasional showers forecast for next week, it was an easy decision to take thicker shirts, and warm tops. I also washed a warm coat and thick fleecy cardigan, as I presume both will be needed.

It is now 5:15pm, and I am getting hungry. I think that is partly because of the early start, but also because it is decidedly cold for August, at barely 15C. Too early for starting dinner just yet, so I came in here to check blog posts and emails. (I also had been doing that between jobs, and when the iron was heating up)

For those of you with genuinely busy lives, my day might well seem like a holiday, I get that.

But I predict an early night for me!

Another Relaxed Rules Saturday

One of my short reports about living with the pandemic in an English village close to a country market town.

I noticed a few changes since the last time I wrote one of these. A short trip into Dereham to go to the bank brought the surprise that well over half the shoppers there on market day were wearing masks now. They will be mandatory in any shop in England after the 24th of July, so I suspect that a lot of people have decided they might as well start earlier.

The bank still has a system of queuing outside, with entry through a side door, and exit on another street. And it is still only open for four hours each day, for the foreseeable future. Some of the cafes were open, one with extra tables out on the street, another with greatly reduced seating arrangements inside. Compared to a few weeks ago, shoppers appeared to be more responsible, and keeping their distance on the pavements and walkways. I was left wondering why they had waited so long.

The big supermarkets have abandoned the one-way systems and single checkout queues, though the two largest ones still have some form of door policy, letting customers out before allowing more in. I have a little concern that once every shopper is wearing a mask, many of the other safety measures will be abandoned. Whilst masks are good at protecting other people from your breath, so many users don’t wear them correctly, only covering their mouth with them, and not their nose too. Then there is the obvious fact that they are touching things and putting them back on the shelves, something that masks cannot protect us from.

They have also generated a new and more dangerous form of litter. I saw many disposable masks dropped on the street, and the supermarket car park had quite a few dropped next to car parking spaces. There will always be thoughtless and inconsiderate people, sadly.

All schools are set to go back to normal operation in September, and some hotels and guest houses have already opened for the summer tourist trade. Holiday parks are popular, as their lodge-style accommodation or static caravans can be used by a family without having to share any communal area. However, swimming pools are still closed, as are cinemas and play areas like Soft Play centres.

Yesterday, 114 people died in England from Covid-19. People with families, loved ones, friends, and colleagues. It is far from over.

We must never forget them.

Covid-19 and Beetley: A Saturday Update

So the UK government has officially downgraded the alert level for the Coronavirus, from 4 to 3. All the schools are set to go back in September, hotels are opening in July, and non-essential shops opened earlier this week. The two-metre social distancing is set to be reduced to one metre soon, and all public transport is running, with the requirement to wear a face-covering of some kind inside trains and buses.

Sounds positive, doesn’t it? Well, I don’t think so.

Too many people are still dying, and too many people are still carrying the virus without any idea that they have it.

The track and trace app has been abandoned in favour of something else provided by Google and Apple. No doubt a company somewhere made a mint out of the failed experiment, and some officials pocketed a nice payoff too. The fall in the numbers of deaths is hailed as a great success. Try telling that to the people who died this week, and their bereaved relatives and friends.

Speaking from his luxury home in Florida, where he travelled to by private jet, the odious Lord Sugar, he of ‘The Apprentice’ fame, denied the very existence of the virus, for the simple reason that he doesn’t personally know anyone who has died of it. That man has a vote in The House of Lords, let’s not forget that.

I had to drive into the nearby town of Dereham yesterday, to go to the bank. It was a Friday as normal, as far as I could tell. Car parks almost full, crowds of eager shoppers everywhere, and few bothering about social distancing. You could have assumed it was still 2019, and nothing had happened. There were measures in place at the bank, and around half the shops and all the cafes and pubs were still closed until July.

But it was otherwise very ‘normal’. OId normal, that is.

Far too normal for me, I assure you.

A trip into Town

Another reblog for new followers, from 2014. One day in the life of a sleepy Norfolk market town.


This morning, I had to make a trip into Dereham, the local town. I often drive through it, to get to the large supermarket on the outskirts, but I rarely have occasion to stop there. Today, I had to take a suit to the Dry Cleaners, as I will wear it next week, to a friend’s funeral. I was also going to pop into the branch of my bank there, and perhaps have a look around some shops.

I parked in the large free car park at the northern end of the High Street. As it is not one of the market days, it was easy to find a space. It was very cold in the wind, and occasional sleet made the short walk unpleasant. The shop where I left the dry cleaning is also a shoe repair and key-cutting business. The pleasant young man who runs it is always…

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Old Dereham in photos

From where we live in Beetley, the nearest town containing shops, banks, and a Post Office is Dereham. Officially it is East Dereham, but it is known to everyone just as Dereham. It is the fifth largest town in the county of Norfolk, and right in the centre of that county too. Only three miles from Beetley to the south, it takes just five minutes to get there by car.

Continuing my search for old images, I found some of that town, taken between 1880 and 1901. It is amazing how little it has changed in that time.

The Corn Exchange. This is now the local cinema, called The Hollywood. The facade was preserved by law.

Church Street. The shops on the left are still trading, albeit selling different things.

The High Street. These shops still exist today. Some are Estate Agents, and others have different uses.

The Market Place. There is no longer a livestock market in the town. But The Market Place has hardly changed, and still holds a general market on Tuesdays and Fridays.

These three ancient cottages date from the 16th century. (1502)

They were later converted into the town museum.

Here is a photo I took of that same building more recently.

I think if you brought someone back from 1899, they would find this town completely familiar.

Remembrance Day

This morning in our local town of Dereham, there was a British Legion parade to the war memorial, to show respect and remembrance to the soldiers who have fallen in many wars. Ever since we have lived in Norfolk, Julie and I have played our part by arranging a light lunch after the ceremony. We used to to this in Julie’s workplace, the local bank, but she has moved from that branch now, so we found another venue.

The Meeting Point is a community resource, used for many meetings and occasions, as well as celebrations. We were kindly offered the use of the main room and serving kitchen, free of charge. From her own funds, Julie buys the makings of a ham and cheese ploughman’s lunch, as well as cakes, tea and coffee, and fruit juice. In previous years, we have had as many as forty attendees, including some local armed services personnel, the town Mayor, and the local Vicar too.

This year, numbers were down. Some of the old soldiers have sadly passed away, and others were too ill to come along. But we were up and about early, driving to the Meeting Point to prepare the lunch, and lay out the room. Everyone started to arrive just after 11:15, and as Julie busied herself with serving the food, I took charge of drinks through the serving hatch. It all went very well, and everyone who attended was most appreciative. One made a short speech thanking us both, and Julie was presented with an attractive bunch of flowers. After they had left, we cleared up and tidied the hall, ready for the next event.

Neither of us have ever been in the armed forces, but both our fathers served in WW2.
Once a year, for a few hours, and a little money spent, we think it is the least we can do.

Car repairs, and some photos

The Dereham Town sign, spanning the narrow High Street. It features the hunting of deer, once popular here, and shows the date when the town was founded, 654 A.D.

All photos can be enlarged for detail.

I had to take my car in today. It was to have its annual compulsory inspection, as well as a full service. Add the need for a new water pump and cam-belt, and I was facing a hefty bill. I got more bad news. The back axle needed attention in order to pass the inspection. The estimate was beginning to come close to the resale value of the car, which is now ten years old. As a new replacement would cost in the region of £26,000, I told them to go ahead with the work, at close to £900.

After that shock, I decided to do something more cheerful, and took a few photos in the oldest part of the town of Dereham, before clearing my head with a walk home of almost four miles.
Staying positive, in 2017. Just about…

The oldest church in town, St Nicholas. This church was founded in 654, and has remained unaltered since the 16th century. It is distinctive in having a separate bell-tower.

The bell tower, or ‘Campanile’

Next to the church is Dereham’s oldest remaining house. Built in 1502, (Roman numerals on the outside show the date) Bishop Bonner’s Cottage was named after that man, and is now used as the small town museum. It was once three separate cottages.

A brief look at the more interesting parts of our local market town.

Dereham at Christmas

As regular readers will know, I don’t go into our local town of Dereham very often. I may drive around the outskirts occasionally, to get to the supermarket, or my shift at the windmill, but I tend to avoid the nearby mini-metropolis whenever possible.

This year, the traders (and perhaps the Town Council) have made some effort, with tasteful decorations above the shops, and a very nice illuminated tree in the Market Place. The recent addition of a large McDonald’s burger restaurant on the edge of town, and an increase in the population, from the newly-opened housing estates, seems to have increased traffic, and started to cause some difficulty with parking too. The building of a large Aldi supermarket close to the existing Lidl and Tesco will not help things, I am sure, but it will give the local residents more choice, so that might be something positive.

After almost four years here, we have seen a change though. The sleepy town that we knew in 2012 is now often bustling. The local free car park that used to only ever be two-thirds full, is now short of spaces most days. In the huge Tesco, that I once believed might have to close for lack of trade, it is becoming harder to park, harder to shop in the aisles, and more difficult to pay for the goods at the checkouts. Despite the gloomy forecasts for retail outlets, even the smaller shops look busy, at least as far as footfall is concerned.

But this increase in popularity must come at some cost. More and more applications are in, for permission to build large housing estates on the edge of the town, or in the small villages nearby. Local Doctors will not be able to cope with the demand, and schools are also unlikely to be able to accommodate the increase in children needing places. The narrow streets of the one-way system might well become clogged with traffic, especially at school-run times, and the evening rush hour. The valuable free parking in the town will be under more pressure, as the local bus services to the surrounding villages are not planned to expand.

Increasing the population without laying down adequate infrastructure beforehand might well be good for Council revenues, and for the shopkeepers and traders in the area. But eventually, something will have to give, and the Christmases to come may well not be as pleasant as they have been in the past.

The chance of a shower

Is it any wonder that I complain so much about the weather?

Before going out with Ollie today, I checked the BBC weather news at lunchtime. When they got to this area, the man smiled and said, “there will be a chance of a shower in the east.” Fair enough, I am warned.

Out with Ollie, I took along my umbrella, and there was a shower or two. I had taken my precautons, and managed to avoid the worst of the precipitation. By the time we were heading home, around 3.40 pm, it was best described as ‘continuous rain.’ By 4 pm, it was heavy enough to sound on the roof, and spatter the windows. I headed off for my trip to the supermarket, and immediately needed full-speed wipers in the car.

The rain on the road was making a fair bit of noise. In dips and corners, it had accumulated enough for passing cars to splash unwary pedestrians. In Dereham, people were running from the downpour, and it seemed that almost everyone had been caught out by the late rain. By the time I got to Tesco’s car park, a dash of just over one hundred yards to the sanctuary of the interior was enough to give me a reasonable soaking.

I drove back in more heavy rain, and unloaded the car, protected by the tailgate. As I type this, I can hardly hear the sound of the TV in the next room, for the noise of the rain.

BBC, please take note. That is not the ‘chance of a shower.’ Not by anyone’s reckoning.