Nine Years Ago Today

On the 23rd of March, 2012, I moved away from London for good, and arrived in Norfolk.

My wife Julie was already here. Having had to start a job locally, she had moved up on the 31st of December, 2011.

That week in March is one I will never forget. I had my retirement party on the 12th, my mum died on the 14th, and I was 60 years old on the 16th.

For the first months I lived here, I felt as if I was on holiday. Julie was still working full-time then, so I was alone during the day, in a totally unfamiliar place. The quiet of Beetley really got to me then. In a good way, making me relish the move away from the noise and bustle of Central London. But there was still a part of me that wondered if I would ever feel at home in this Norfolk village. I felt out of place even walking up to the post-box.

Getting Ollie saved the day. Having a dog to walk meant that I encountered many other people. Very soon, there was a regular group of walkers, all enjoying the antics of our dogs playing together.

However, I still found it hard to shake the feeling of being rather ‘lost’. So I became a volunteer at the local school, teaching cycling road safety. Then I took on a second voluntary job, working for the Fire and Rescue Service as a home safety officer; fitting smoke alarms, and giving talks and presentations to various groups around the county.

During this time, my friend Antony suggested I start writing a blog, which I began in the summer of 2012.

The rest, as the saying goes, is history.

It’s Official! I’m A Jinx!

Hands up, I write a lot about the weather. I’s probably the most regularly covered topic on this blog. One reason is that before I moved here, Norfolk had the proud boast of being ‘The Driest County in England’. In fact, that was the title of one of the earliest posts on my blog, reflecting the irony that it seemed to rain every day here.

I also wrote a post about the fact that it always rained at 2 pm, my usual dog-walking time.

Over the years, my obsession with weather has led some people to conclude that I am exaggerating. Others might think it shows signs of serious depression, or some other mental abberation. Moving to a place supposed to officially be the driest spot in the British Isles only to discover it is probably one of the wettest, is a cruel twist of fate indeed.

Then yesterday morning, I had an interesting conversation with a fellow dog-walker, as we both stood looking at the severe flooding that has affected Beetley Meadows. The man was younger than me, but had lived his whole life in this area. And he was a gardener by profession, so spends his life outside, every working day. Gazing at the rushing flood-waters, he told me this.

“This used to be the driest place, you know. Some summers, we had no rain for four or five months, and it never rained during the school holidays when I was young. We had hosepipe bans that started in April, and water was treated like something rare, because of the lack of rain. They even used to close the drive-through car washes because they used too much water. But I started to notice that changing a while back. As I am outside all day working, I get a feel for those things, you know? We began to get heavy rain in early October, and then almost no snow at all during winter, but many consecutive days of heavy rain instead. Washed out summers, ruined barbecues, and only a few reasonably hot days each year.

I remember going home and telling my wife that something bad was happening with the weather here. Even the direction of the arriving bad weather was changing. It was always from the west before, but then it started to come down from the north, and across from the east. Weather patterns and gulf stream directions were all different. I looked it up. Then there was a really big change. I remember it as if it was yesterday. It started with weeks of rain, then a crappy summer, followed by a late winter that left us with snow almost into April”.

I nodded in agreement, then asked. “What year was that then?” He turned to face me, his answer immediate and full of conviction.

“2012. It started at the end of March that year, and it has been getting worse every year since”.

I moved to Beetley on the 23rd of March, 2012. It’s all my fault.

My Kind Of Weather

In the UK, the BBC brings us regional news. Following the main news broadcast, there is a regional news programme for each area of Britain. In Norfolk, we have ‘Look East’. The weather report on that mentioned colder weather over the next few days, and that frost and ice was unlikely, with temperatures staying well above freezing.

Then she said, “We have had no significant rainfall in this region for well over a week now”.

That’s my kind of weather report! 🙂

Tropical Blogging In Beetley

Well they finally got a weather forecast correct, and it is exceedingly hot today in Beetley. With no breeze, and fairly high humidity, it feels more like the tropics than eastern England. Despite sweltering in my office as I work on the blog posts, I am not complaining. Mainly because it isn’t raining. It is estimated to climb to a possible 36 C by 5 pm, which is over 96 F. It is hotter in Beetley today than in most foreign holiday destinations popular with British tourists.

I write a lot about the weather; mostly complaints, I know. Today, the media is joining me in my obsession, with regular TV news features about how hot it is, and likely to stay so for the coming weekend. The usual hordes of selfish inconsiderate idiots have hit the beaches all around the south coast of England, failing to bother with social distancing as they sunbathe and frolic in the sea. No doubt many will also suffer from sunstroke or serious sunburn, placing more strain on the overburdened health service.

I had to take Ollie out early today, but even at 9:30 it was already 26 C, and he spent most of his walk not walking at all, but standing up to his chin in the river.

Fjui X30 039

Since we got back he has been sleeping soundly, as any excessive movement makes him begin to pant with the heat. I hope he manages okay tonight, as it is not set to drop below 24 C. No doubt I will be sleeping on top of the bed, with no covers.

I know, not a pretty sight…

It made me think of the offer from Barbados, to waive work visas for anyone who wanted to live and work there for six months, to take advantage of the good weather during the time they were working from home.

Perhaps Beetley should be advertising in Barbados instead?

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 Relaxed Rules Saturday In Beetley

Here is another pandemic lockdown report from Beetley. This time, under the newly relaxed rules.

Things haven’t changed that much, though the hot weather brought out families with small children sunbathing around the river bend at The Meadows. Traffic was noticeable on the Holt Road leading north to the coast, despite most facilities there still being closed. I dread to think about all those people going to the toilet in the countryside and on beaches, and the disposable nappies being dumped carelessly.

But they don’t live there, so what do they care?

Locally, there has been an increase in walkers and bird watchers on Hoe Rough, with the small car park busy at all times. People are still carrying on with social distancing, I am happy to see, and nobody stands close, or walks by on a narrow path. It has the feeling of something that may well become the ‘new behaviour’.

Ollie had a much-needed bath this week, as the groomer had reopened. The closest I got to her was a long stretch to pass Ollie’s lead, and handing over the money into her gloved hand when I collected him. His fur feels much better, but the hot weather didn’t improve his ‘hot-dog’ smell, that’s for sure.

And it has been hot. 27C is very unusual for May, and it didn’t drop much below 25 C until yesterday. That means fans in the evening, watching TV, and fans in the bedroom to get a decent sleep. It also means mosquitoes, and I have three bites on my left arm, and two on my left leg. I should have guessed, and taken precautions. I will be from now on.

Strange gusty winds have appeared. They don’t cool things down that much, but give the sense of standing on the deck of a small boat, being buffeted.

They are quite nice, I have concluded.

A Nostalgic Journey

One of my local friends in Beetley sent me a link to this (silent) cine-film clip from 1968. It shows a train journey from Dereham Station into the city of Norwich. At the time, the line had been threatened with closure, and was eventually closed. You can still take the shorter train journey from Dereham to Wymondham, but only on special heritage days run by a volunteer preservation society.

I still think of 1968 as being very modern and progressive. But looking at this film, it feels as if it could have been shot not that long after WW2.

This is the text that accompanies the film on Facebook, posted by Russell Walker.

Video clip ‘Threat of Closure’ which shows a train journey from Dereham to Norwich Thorpe via Wymondham in 1968. Duration 10m 7s, no audio.
Edward Thorp, known as ‘Chib’, an undertaker from Leigh on Sea, spent his weekends throughout the year documenting the rail routes in East Anglia with wife Edna and their dog Micky. Chib always took along his 8mm camera, a good supply of Kodachrome film, and a tape recorder, to document their trips. On this journey Thorp travels from Dereham Central, passing through Yaxham, Thuxton, Hardingham, Kimberley, Wymondham, and Hethersett, arriving at Norwich Thorpe Station. The title ‘Threat of Closure’ refers, presumably, to the cuts made to many rural rail routes and train services following the Beeching Report.’

Finally managed some photos

This short post is from 2012, so not that many of you have seen it before. This was the first time I managed to insert photos into a blog post, after many hours of frustrating experiments. Ollie was just nine months old then. He no longer likes to wade in the sea, much preferring freshwater rivers or ponds.

I did something wrong back then, so the photos cannot be enlarged. Sorry.

beetleypete

If you look at the bumper on the front of this car, you will see how we shop for poultry in Beetley!

This is our dog, Ollie, enjoying a refreshing dip in the sea at Holkham.

It has taken me ages tonight, just to work out how to import pictures onto this blog! A sure sign of advancing years. Now I have finally managed to add these two to this post, I am going to call it a night. More to come, when I have the necessary patience. I have even sent out a desperate request to WordPress for advice, so you can ignore it, if you see it.

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Yet Another Lockdown Saturday

Since the issues with the virus began, I have been reporting from the small village of Beetley in Norfolk, about how it affects this small community.
So here is another Saturday update, with unsurprisingly little to report.

The change in the weather had an immediate affect on people being seen out and about. Rain kept in most other dog walkers, and many of the family groups who had been enjoying the outdoors by the riverside. It occurred to me that they should have just put on some coats and boots, and made the most of the remaining time off before they have to go back to work or school. But a drop of 10 degrees C overnight put paid to their enthusiasm.

After the earlier burst of activity involving cutting lawns, trimming shrubs, and banging away at parts of their houses with something heavy and noisy, it seems that they have now either done all they can do, or have lost the will to do more. We are back to peace and quiet at weekends, with no traffic, and few walkers to be seen.

On a personal note, I have become involved in a ‘neighbour dispute’ with the people at the side of our back garden. They want to cut four feet off the hedge that borders their garden, and delivered a hand-written note telling me of their intention. I have suggested arbitration from the local authorities instead, with the unhappy neighbours needing to prove that our hedge is ‘Anti-Social’, and causes ‘detrimental affects’ to the enjoyment of their rented property. If I lose the judgement, we will end up with an unsightly gap in the long hedge that will look ridiculous.

Perhaps they had too much time on their hands during this lockdown?. After all, they have lived there for some years, and the hedges were exactly the same when they took the property on. So now I have to endure an investigation from the authorities, and become involved in a neighbour dispute that I never expected to encounter in Beetley. Maybe I should have bought a small castle instead, and raised the drawbridge? Or an unpopulated island off the coast, only accessible by boat?

No matter how far away you move, in my case 130 miles, it seems you can never escape the prospect of a niggling neighbour.

Norwich: The Beauty Of A City In Lockdown.

Julie found this nine-minute You Tube film on Facebook. It is lovingly filmed in 4K High-Definition video. The deserted city is shown in detail, and despite the eerie feeling of seeing so few people, and no traffic, it really is a peaceful and quite beautiful experience to watch.

Norwich is the largest city in Norfolk, and the closest city to Beetley, at just over 18 miles to the east. It has a population of 213,000 including its suburbs, and is home to the largest hospital and university in the county. Most days, it is also packed with shoppers heading for the three large malls, and the extensive covered market in the centre. Traffic in and around the city can be a nightmare at times, and it can also be impossible to find a space to park in one of the many city car parks.

The city is dominated by an impressive Norman castle, and home to a magnificent Gothic cathedral. Roman, Saxon, and medieval walls can still be seen, and the narrow streets are home to many surviving houses from centuries ago, as well as an Art Deco City Hall, and Brutalist style car parks and shopping complexes. The side streets are full of attractive small shops, restaurants, pubs, and bars. At the weekend, they are popular with people from all over the county, who flock to the entertainment centre of Norfolk.

There are also theatres, galleries, exhibition centres, cinemas, and an attractive historical riverside to enjoy too.

To see this huge city devoid of people and traffic is to see it revealed in all its glory.