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.

Thinking Aloud On a Sunday

Second Homers

I heard a short report on the local news the other day, and then forgot about it. But I woke up this morning thinking about it seriously.

Norfolk is a county with a large coastline. Not that long ago, coastal housing here was some of the cheapest available in the southern half of Britain. That attracted well-off buyers from London and its suburbs. Less than a three-hour drive from the capital, and you get countryside, huge sandy beaches, and the chance of sea views from your back garden. So they came and bought property.

Lots of it.

But they didn’t live here. They used it at weekends, to get away from the city, or sent the family up here for the long school holidays. It was quaint. It had small shops, old buildings, traditional seaside towns, and quiet roads. Once it became widely known, house prices started to increase out of all proportion to local income and availability. By 2010, a house on the North Norfolk coast cost almost as much as one in North London.

And a beach hut fetched the same price as a small house in Beetley.

(The same applies to Suffolk by the way, which is even closer to london)

The inevitable happened, and local people could no longer afford to buy homes in the most desirable areas. They couldn’t rent them either, as the second-homers could charge a couple of thousand pounds a week to let them out when they didn’t need to use them.

Then those local shops started to cater for their new rich clientele. They began to stock Pate de Fois Gras, Artisan breads, Parma ham, fresh Parmesan, and designer fabrics to decorate their second homes in style. Before long, local people could no longer buy what they needed in the villages they had spent their lives in, and were having to travel into the central Norfolk market towns to get their weekly shop.

The pubs that they enjoyed a beer and a pie in started to change into classy bistros, and gastropubs. They had wine lists as extensive as any top London eatery, and sold exclusive bottled water at £3 a bottle. So the locals lost their social life too. Then the local economy started to depend on the whims and patronage of these part-time newcomers.

I know. Times change. Things change. Nothing stays the same. Get on with it.

Soak it up. Move on.

But as if that wasn’t bad enough for the impoverished counties in the East of England, along came Covid-19. The second homers knew what to do.

Leave London, and flock to their coastal hideaways, bringing the virus with them. In less than ten days, cases of reported infection in the whole of Norfolk have gone from just one, to twenty-five, with two people dying of the virus already. It is estimated that the numbers infected will be reported as more than fifty by the end of the month, with a corresponding death rate.

But it could be more.

However, on the bright side, the second homers and their families are getting some fresh air, as they await the delivery of luxury groceries.

Thinking Aloud On a Sunday

Electricity.

What with both Storm Ciara and Storm Dennis, we have had some small power cuts recently. Watching TV last night, there were occasional ‘flickers’ of the sort that usually herald a disruption in electrical power, but they came to nothing. I woke up today wondering if we would still have power, after a night of high winds that kept me awake for most of it. Luckily, we did.

I have written before about experiencing power cuts since living in Norfolk. They have ranged from twenty minutes to as long as seven hours, and definitely make you think about what life might have been like before the dependence on electricity for so much of our existence in this modern world.

In London, power cuts were rare. But here in Norfolk, most electricity is still carried on overhead cables into small local sub-stations. Those wires and cables can be badly affected by high winds, tree branches, and many other factors, even local subsidence of masts and support poles. Even after eight years here, little has changed in that respect, and as soon as severe weather hits, we are always aware of the chance of losing power.

Provisions have been made, to some degree. We have a wood-burning stove to provide heat, and candles and wind-up torches to give us some light. In the shed there is a small camping stove, powered by gas bottles, so we could make a hot drink, or warm up some food. But there would be nothing by way of entertainment as we have come to expect it now. No TV, computers, tablets or e-books, once the batteries had run out. Even the mobile phones are boosted by a signal generator that requires electricity, so there would likely be no signal for those to work either.

Never mind, we could read real books by candlelight, and perhaps even have a conversation, before retiring to bed early once boredom had well and truly set in.

But there is the freezer and fridge to consider. How long before the fresh stuff starts to go off, and the freezer starts to thaw? Washing clothes isn’t going to happen, and as soon as all the hot water has been used from the tank, there is no power to heat any more.

Walking with Ollie today in driving cold rain and strong winds, I met up with a couple who I know well from dog-walking. They live across the main road, in the very desirable address called Mill Lane. They told me that they had not had power since Thursday night, and that they regularly lose power for up to two weeks at a time. It seems that the few very nice houses in that road are powered by a tiny sub-station that supplies only them, and when the line is broken the sub-station shorts out, and has to be repaired by the power company.

They are used to it, and quite resilient. They have camping stoves and lamps, wood burners for heating, and they use the time to bond with their two small children. But when it really drags on, they have to move out and live with their parents, so as to be able to use a washing machine, and take regular baths and showers. They have lived in their house for more than twenty years since being married, and assured me that back then, they had bad weather power cuts all the time in the winter, up to twice a week.

That made me think more about the difference between people from cities and rural districts. For us, twenty minutes with no power is an irritation and great inconvenience. For them, it is a relief that it is so short a time, and almost goes unnoticed.

I wonder if I will live here long enough to develop that attitude?