Historical Norfolk In Photos

Closer to home for me these days, some great history can be seen in the county that contains Beetley.

Kings Lynn.
During the 14th century, this West Norfolk town was the most important port in all of England. Some of the historic dockside has been resored.

Central Norwich.
The old part of the city has remained the same since the Elizabethan age. These photos are modern, it still looks the same today.

Bickling Hall.
The stately home where Anne Boleyn was born in 1501. The house as it is shown here was mainly built in 1616, by Sir Henry Hobart. It is now managed by The National Trust, and open to visitors.

Oxburgh Hall.
A moated country house, built by in 1482 by Sir Edmund Bedingfield, and later crenellated. He was a supporter of the Yorkists during the Wars of The Roses. Now managed by The National Trust, and open to visitors.

St Benet’s Abbey.
Close to the east coast near Great Yarmouth, this dates from 1022, at the time of King Harold Godwinson who was killed in 1066 at The Battle of Hastings. Sir John Fastoff (Shakespeare’s Falstaff) was buried here.

The Eyes Have It

Apologies for not keeping up with your posts today, but I spent a long time at the eye clinic this morning. After two years of waiting, I finally received an appointment for the Glaucoma clinic in Norwich, and attended at 10:30 this morning.

There is no parking there, so it involves driving to Dereham and parking the car, then getting a bus for the forty minute journey into the city. The clinic is not attached to the main hospital, and is in a side street a short walk from the bus station.

On arrival, you check in and wait for your name to be called. Then a technician takes you in for a prolonged eye test. First without wearing your glasses, then with them on. You read out what you can see on the chart, but they don’t tell you if you succeeded in ‘passing’ the test. What follows is a ‘Visual Fields’ test. You have to stare into a machine, one eye at a time. Looking intently at a small bright orange light, you are given a small button to press every time you see a white light flash anywhere inside the screen.

After a while, you are imagining lights where none exist, and forgetting to click the button when you see an obvious one. This takes some time, and once again you have no idea of your success rate.

Then it is back to the waiting room, until you are called in by the Specialist Eye Nurse Practitioner. In that room, your internal eye pressure is taken, after anaesthetic drops have numbed your eyes so that you do not feel the device touching them. Once that is all over, you are allowed to ask how you are doing. My results were encouraging.

Eye Pressure. Good, and less than it was last time. The daily eye drops seem to be working.
Eye Test. Vision good with glasses, less so without. To be expected. No new glasses prescription required.
Visual Fields. In the ‘acceptable’ levels for my age, but far from perfect.

I asked about my cataracts, and was told that they are ‘minimal’ and do not currently require surgery. I was also told that I will not need another appointment for at least a year. Before leaving, I had a painless eye scan in a different room, with a different technician.

By the time I waited for the bus home and then drove back from Dereham, I had been gone for three and a half hours. Ollie was ready for his walk, and fortunately the sun shone, despite a cold breeze.

This evening, my eyes feel sore and tired where they were ‘prodded’. That is only because the anaesthetic had time to wear off of course. They should be fine tomorrow.

As hospital visits go, that was a good one. And it was free of charge, on the NHS.

I will catch up with everyone tomorrow.

A Very Short Trip To Norwich

Since moving to Norfolk, I have avoided cities whenever possible. I have only been back to London twice in almost ten years, and have also been reluctant to venture into Norwich, the largest city in the county which is twenty miles to the east of Beetley.

However, Christmas is looming, and Julie asked what I wanted as a gift. I chose a new dressing-gown, (robe, for American readers) and regular followers will know how much time I spend in my gown, and how much I love wearing one. I suggested we buy one online, but they are notorious for sizing issues. One version sold as size Large might only just fit, whereas another in the same size could well wrap around me twice.

There was nothing for it, a trip to Marks and Spencer in Norwich could not be avoided.

On Tuesday afternoon, we drove into Dereham, and parked the car for free in the town car park. Ten minutes later, we were on the fast bus to Norwich, heading into the city on a dull and rainy afternoon. I travel for free on my old codger’s bus pass, but Julie had to pay a return fare that was still only half of what it would have cost to park in one of Norwich’s busy multi-storey car parks.

The trip took around thirty minutes in moderate traffic, and the bus dropped us in the shopping centre almost opposite the huge Marks and Spencer shop. We took the lift to the second floor, and emerged in the menswear department exactly at the point where the dressing gowns are displayed. I tried on three different ones, all in the same size. There was that ‘Goldilocks’ moment, with one being too large, (and having an enormous hood that I didn’t want) another only just going around me, and the third being just right.

That third one was a rather luxurious multi-stripe gown of considerable weight and cosiness. The quality was reflected in the price, as it was thirty-percent more expensive than those I had rejected. As Julie paid for it, I quickly bought a new pair of black jogging trousers for dog-walking, and we were back inside the bus station within fifteen minutes of arriving. The next bus was ten minutes away, and coincided with the city’s schools and college finishing for the day.

So the ride home was on a completely full bus, in much heavier late afternoon traffic. But it still only took forty-five minutes to get back to Dereham, and we were in the car and home in Beetley before four-forty.

Considering that we caught the first bus into Norwich just before three in the afternoon, that almost sets a new shopping trip record.

My kind of trip to the shops.

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.

Ollie, and Mousehold Heath

(All photos can be enlarged by clicking on them)

It was warm and sunny here today, so I fancied a change of scene from the usual walk with Ollie. Despite being close to the centre of Norfolk’s largest city, Mousehold Heath in Norwich is an oasis of calm. Over 180 acres of heathland and woodland with managed paths, provide a popular area of recreation in the heart of the busy city.

Lots of new smells for Ollie to examine, and the chance of encountering some new canine pals too. He was excited to visit there, as he probably doesn’t remember the last trip, a couple of years ago.

This was an enjoyable change for both of us, and well-worth the forty-mile round trip to make the most of the unusually good weather.

City Stress

I didn’t get time to write a ‘Thinking Aloud’ post last Sunday. I had to go out, a rarity for me on a Sunday, I assure you. But I did wake up thinking about something. I was thinking about having to drive into Norwich, something that stresses me out a great deal. Considering I lived in central London for sixty years, you might think that driving into a provincial city would be a breeze after that. But I have lived in a village, close to the small town of Dereham, for over five years now. So a trip into what counts as the ‘Big City’, is something I have come to dread.

We had to go in though. The intention was to change our telephone line and broadband supplier, and we had to visit the shop to sign the contracts. It also had to be done that day, or we would miss the window of the available ‘special offer’. I would have preferred to go in by bus. I get free travel as a pensioner, and the bus service to and from the city is very good. But we had to travel on somewhere after that, so the car it was.

The first seventeen miles of the journey, on the A47 major road, are reasonably easy. Once you turn off and head into the city though, you are soon aware that this small city (population 135,000) was never built to cope with the influx of people from over half of Norfolk, and parts of Suffolk too. There are four main car parks, but three were already full by lunchtime. The rest of us were funnelled into the more expensive NCP car park, close to the busy bus station. After the usual hassles of going into a dead end that had no spaces, followed by a tricky reverse to get out, and back onto the up ramp, we found a space two floors up, and headed off to the phone shop in the large Chapelfield Mall.

Since shops started opening on Sundays, it has proved a very popular day for shoppers to congregate. As they are only open from 11 until 5, the lunchtime period is definitely one of the busiest of the week. Once in the phone shop, we made contact with the young man we had an appointment with, and waited patiently until he was free from his previous customers. The shop mainly deals in mobile phones, but the company has recently been able to offer good deals on home phones and broadband too. It was very busy, and the young men who work there were literally rushed off their feet. People love mobile phones, they really do. Best of all, they like to change them frequently, always keen to get the latest model, or the best deal. A steady stream of customers came and went, making me very glad that we had managed to get a definite appointment.

A quick look around confirmed that I am definitely not in the target market for such a shop. Mostly younger people, being served by very young men. The sort of young men who seem to have incredibly thin legs, wearing trousers that look impossible to get on and off. Young men with spiky hair, tattoos, and mostly in need of a shave. Until a lady came in with a walking frame, I was definitely the oldest person in there, by a mile. Our young advisor eventually got to us. He efficiently explained the benefits of changing suppliers, and countered my many probing questions with a calm professionalism. This lad knew his stuff, that was obvious. Despite my initial reservations, I could find no flaws in his argument. We signed up for the contract, and will enjoy an immediate saving of more than £30 a month, on current bills. We will also get unlimited Internet access, and a fibre connection too. This is a better deal than our current ADSL connection, with its ‘Fair Use’ policy limiting broadband usage.

Two hours after arriving at the car park, we were heading out. I couldn’t get my seat belt done up, then had to reach too far to insert my pre-paid ticket into the machine to be able to leave the cramped car park. That sent me into a small but out of proportion rage. I wanted out of the place, and as quick as possible. Once back onto the main road, well out of Norwich, I could feel myself calming down. The stress of the city was behind me, until next time.

The new modem should arrive soon, and the switch over is due to happen on the 16th. So if you don’t hear from me after that, you can presume it didn’t work as promised, and I am sitting in a corner, quietly fuming.

Technology. Isn’t it wonderful?

A Beetley weekend

Yesterday, we had arranged to meet Julie’s children, and their partners, for a celebratory meal in Norwich. The occasion was her oldest son’s 30th birthday. He and his girlfriend drove up from Hertfordshire with his brother, and went to visit one of his twin sisters, to see the new baby. The other twin came over from her home in Norfolk with her boyfriend, and they all spent time enjoying their new nephew. The restaurant in Norwich had been booked for 8pm, and we all arranged to meet in there.

As Julie and I set off, my car failed to start. The sudden drop in temperature to -3, had killed off the already tired battery, which failed to raise enough enthusiasm to start the vehicle. We had to quickly swap to Julie’s car, and we still made good time, arriving exactly on schedule. Once inside, all hungry, seeking the warmth and conviviality in evidence, we were told that there was no record of our booking. As there were eight of us, they could not find us any table to suit, and suggested that we had mistakenly booked a similar restaurant, another branch of the small chain. They rang them, but they had no record either. As the telephone call had only been made and booking confirmed less than two hours earlier, it was plain to us that they had made a mistake, and were refusing to admit it. However, there was little point in making a fuss. There was nowhere to sit, and we were out on a Saturday night before Christmas, with little chance of finding a suitable restaurant able to accept such a large group. Julie’s son went over the road to a different restaurant. He returned with the good news that they could take us, but that they had a large party in, so it would be noisy, and service might be slower than usual. We took the chance, and managed to have a very nice time, with some reasonable food thrown in.

Arriving back quite late, Julie and I stayed up longer than usual too, with a resulting late start today. I tried the car again. It teased me with the prospect of turning over, then died with a cackle. At 1pm, I rang the RAC. I have been a member for as long as I can recall, and pay for the full package, including help at home. I could have just taken Julie’s car, driven down to Halfords, and bought a battery to fit myself. Then there would be little point in paying into a breakdown service in the first place. The RAC control centre staff were very helpful, but advised me that because of the sudden cold weather, they were busier than usual. They said it would take around three hours to get one of their mechanics to me. I said that would be OK, and headed off with Ollie, for an earlier than normal walk, hoping to ensure that I would be around when the RAC arrived. Despite the sunny morning, as soon as we arrived at The Meadows, it began to rain. Freezing cold drops, falling at a fair rate, soon had me feeling damp, chilly, and fed up. As we were early, there were none of Ollie’s regular companions around, so I cut the walk short after seventy-five minutes, and returned home.

True to their word, the RAC rang me back. There were two calls. The first from a busy mobile mechanic, telling how he was snowed under with work, and wouldn’t be here until after 6. Not long after, the control room rang, to tell us that they would have someone there in thirty minutes, as they had brought people in from outside the area, to cope with the demand. That was good news, as there would still be some daylight. A cheerful man arrived on time. He chatted easily, and told me that he lived about an hour from here, near Thetford. Like us, he was not from Norfolk, but had moved up here from Essex, a few years ago. A quick test of battery output confirmed what I had expected. Instead of the required 300 amps, my weary device could only manage 140; this with the engine running, after being started with his special machine. A new battery was the only long-term solution, and he could fit one, then and there.

I went for the heavy-duty option. As the car isn’t used very often, it pays to get the best available. I also benefited from a five-year guarantee from the RAC, instead of the standard one-year, if I had bought one and fitted it myself. I rewarded the man with a cup of strong tea, and happily paid my £120. That may seem expensive, but it was in our own driveway, and I didn’t even have to open the bonnet myself. Plus there is that five-year peace of mind to consider. By then, it was almost dark, and I withdrew into the kitchen to finish the preparation for our evening meal of roast chicken, with all the trimmings. It will be ready soon. The heating is on, Ollie is dozing, and Homeland is on TV later. Despite a couple of setbacks, that’s not a bad ending to a reasonably good weekend.

The Beetley Mole: Getting serious

I posted recently about Ollie and The Mole. After finding Ollie digging in the garden, we later realised that he was searching for a mole. This was apparent when we found a small row of molehills had appeared on the lawn, radiating from the area of the shed. Discussing the situation with local people, it was generally agreed that moles are notoriously difficult to get rid of. Some had laid conventional traps, a hit-and-miss affair, if you are not sure what direction the mole is taking. Others had used the modern approach, sonic spikes that emit mole-disturbing sounds, making them want to leave your property. One way is disruptive, having to cut trenches across your grass, the other very expensive.

I decided to wait and see. Not one of my better ideas. After flattening the molehills, and seeing no activity for a few days, we awoke one morning to a fresh batch of recently-turned hills. We had to go off on holiday, so could do little about it at the time. Arriving home on Friday, we were worried to see a change of direction from Mr Mole (OK, or Mrs Mole). New hills had sprung up along the edge of the house. They were in the small gap between the rear paving slabs of the patio, and directly under the kitchen window. This might well affect drainage from the sink, the guttering down-pipes, and the waste water from our washing machine. Time to take some drastic action, before the little blighter undermines the whole house!

Julie has contacted the Norwich ‘Mole Woman’. She is an accomplished mole-catcher (apparently) and advertises her services with the unusual offer of ‘No Mole-No Fee’. Mind you, if she does catch the culprit, the fee is substantial. Still, this will be less than the cost of new turf for the entire lawn, or sorting out drain problems caused by the industrious tunneler.

Luckily, our neighbours pitched in to help. When we were away, they installed a statue of a mole, dressed as a miner, on one of the fresh hills. The lamp in his miners’ hat is a solar powered light. Not only do we have to see the small statue during the day to remind us of the mole, we also have him illuminated at night, so we can continue to worry during the hours of darkness.

Just as well we have a good sense of humour.

A very quiet Easter

When I was young, Easter was eagerly anticipated. Not that we were a religious family, you understand. Easter was a time of school holidays, visiting relatives, and eating chocolate eggs, and hot cross buns. The long weekend, with two public holidays, meant that everyone tried to get away from London. Whether for a day trip, or longer break, the prospect of bad weather (seemingly compulsory at this time) didn’t put anybody off. After a long winter in the city, this was the first chance to get out, and breathe some fresh air, hopefully close to the sea.

Unfortunately, the road network was not well developed in the late 1950’s and early 60’s. This meant that all the thousands of cars and caravans had to crawl through tiny villages and larger market towns, to get to their destinations. It seems forgotten today, but traffic was terrible back then. Cars were unreliable too, prone to overheating, and getting punctures. The Easter trip was something to endure and tolerate, as long as the couple of days at your getaway of choice could reward you with some relaxation. Traffic jams were so long and convoluted that families could often be seen outside their cars, pulled up on a verge, making tea with a camping stove. The small rest areas, called lay-bys here, were full of overheated cars, steam billowing from tired radiators; the occupants seeking to relieve themselves unseen in clumps of handy bushes, or sat glumly next to their expired vehicles.

For much of my youth, our Easter trip would be to my Grandparents’ caravan. This was situated on a static site in Essex, on the northern side of the Thames Estuary, adjacent to the River Blackwater. This site had the enticing name of ‘Happy Days’, and the caravans could be used from Easter to October. The facilities were primitive by today’s standards. There was a communal washing and toilet block, a small park with swings and play equipment, and a site shop and club house. This contained the highly-regarded bar, which saved the adults having to leave the site in the evenings. Water for the caravan had to be drawn from a tap, and carried over in large containers. There was a coal fire inside for cooler evenings, and some basic furniture. Despite the fact that the caravan was built to sleep only four, we would often have double that, as well as beds on the floor, for the smaller children. Nobody minded the proximity, we were all family after all. There was a tiny patch of grass alongside, which was ours to use when it was warm enough to sit outside. A short drive away, the large town of Maldon provided sufficient shops, as well as a large public park with a funfair and boating lake.

Despite the fact that it usually rained for at least some of the stay, those trips to the caravan were a delight, to both youngsters and adults alike. It was the closest we would ever get to outdoor living, a real change from our lives in South London, and it was only 52 miles away. We would eat our Easter eggs and delicious buns, and our parents and older relatives would have too much to drink in the club house. We also met some new friends; local kids who did things like going out in boats, swimming in the river, and helping out on farms. It was a simple life, with no TV, electronic games, or fashionable trainers. But we had a great time. Times do change though. These days, many people still go for an Easter break. They go to places like Center Parcs, where they can try archery, ride mountain bikes, or buzz around on Segways. If they are lucky, they might go to EuroDisney near Paris, or enjoy a trip to a theme park in the UK, riding on terrifying roller-coasters and similar machines. Some travel further afield, to gites or villas, enjoying croissants or pains au chocolat instead of hot cross buns. I don’t envy them though.

When you get older, such short holidays lose much of their appeal. Working shifts for most of my life, the chances were that I would be working anyway; perhaps both of the days, or at least one of them. At least there was financial compensation for missing out, in the form of double pay or time off in lieu, sometimes both. Easter eggs started to appear in the shops not long after Christmas, and hot cross buns became available all year round. The unstoppable march of retail reduced national holidays to little more than seasonal marketing opportunities, until they just became a day like any other. Saying that, Easter Sunday must still have some significance, because other than Christmas Day, it is the only day that Tesco is closed.

This last Easter, for us in Beetley at least, was very peaceful. On Friday, we took Ollie (and ourselves) to a place called Mousehold Heath, in the centre of Norwich. We had never been there before, so it was an opportunity to get out together for a change, and to see somewhere new. Norwich is not a large city. Despite being the largest city in Norfolk, a population of around 133,000 places it around 30th in the UK. It does benefit from some nice public areas though, and Mousehold Heath, almost in the city centre, provides a welcome escape from the busy roads that surround it. Once parked, and inside the woodland, only some distant views of the buildings and the sounds of traffic remind you how close you still are. There are many paths to choose, and also attractive open areas and a pitch and putt golf course. The new surroundings were much to Ollie’s approval. Numerous other dog-walkers and some dog-admiring families, meant that our dog got his fair share of attention. We stopped halfway at the American-style burger bar, that has outside tables. Thankfully, this is tastefully presented, using a lovingly restored Edwardian pavilion. Other than a sign near the car park you would be pushed to realise that it was even there. After enjoying coffee, and sharing a delicious burger, we crossed the road towards the bandstand, and explored the rest of the heath. The journey home was less than thirty minutes, so it made for a stress-free afternoon out.

Julie had to work until 2pm on Saturday, so we went out that evening. We don’t have a pub anymore in Beetley. But we do have the building that used to be the pub, and it has kept the same name, The New Inn. It is now a welcoming Thai restaurant. Lovely people run it, and the food is delicious too. The bar at the front still serves as a sort-of pub for those not wishing to dine, and it remains popular with many local people. On Sunday, we stayed home, and cooked a turkey for our evening meal, a nod to another Easter tradition from the past. Ollie enjoyed eating some of the bird, and there was plenty left over, which we used for a tasty turkey curry the next day. With the skies grey, and a threat of rain, we also stayed home on Monday. I went and did the regular shopping trip to Tesco, which was closing earlier than usual, though still open until 6pm. The shop was extremely busy, more so than normal for a Monday. As the TV news had promised no rain, and possible sunshine, many shoppers were stocking up on items for a barbecue that evening, and the aisles were packed.

This morning, Julie had to return to work, and I stayed home, nursing my still-aching back. It didn’t stop me taking Ollie for his walk of course, he has to go out. Easter was over for another year, though I am sure that I will be able to buy hot cross buns next week, if I want to.

 

Everyday Life

I have written a lot of posts about music lately, as those old (and sometimes new) songs keep finding their way into my head, and I get that urge to add them to my ever-growing list. The list that was once intended to be very short, and to provide material for occasional posts, seems to be in danger of becoming a blog all of its own. My tendency to wallow in nostalgia, fuelled by musical reveries, seems to be undiminished. This whole blog was originally intended to be primarily about my life in Norfolk, in contrast to my previous life in London, and that seems to have been lost along the way. At least a little bit lost.

As I approach almost two years here, I can say with confidence that Beetley is beginning to feel like home, instead of somewhere that I just happen to live. For some time, I had a vague feeling that this was a bit like a holiday, and at some stage, normal life would be resumed. Of course, this is now my normal life, and far removed from my previous one, fortunately mostly in a good way. I came to sit before the computer late tonight, intending to write about yet another song, but something stopped me, and I began to write this instead. It came to me, that I don’t miss London. I have not yet returned there, despite being close, when visiting Hertfordshire, and Essex. I try to imagine reasons to go back and visit someone, or something. I fancy seeing the view from The Shard, but there will undoubtedly be queues, and crowds. I could visit some friends there, but the logistics of travel, parking, and getting Ollie looked after, make it all seem to fall into the ‘too difficult’ box. I miss the choice of restaurants, but if I went back, would they just all seem too familiar, and old hat?

I have to face the fact that I have put the city behind me. Even a trip into Norwich seems like the big metropolis, and has become an unattractive prospect. I have slowed  down, my pace has lessened, and my desire for things has almost gone. I seek no new clothes, gadgets, or accessories. My lifelong passion for collecting films, first on VHS, then later on DVD, seems to be that of another person, someone different. I still read about them, and on occasion, write about them, but my desire to watch and own them is slowly fading. I am overwhelmed by things. The collections of a reasonably long life, filling spaces in rooms, shed, garage, and loft. I need to divest myself of belongings, not accumulate more. I need the freedom of less, the cleanliness of not owning. Today is as good a day as any to start.

When I moved up here, I imagined that friends and family would flock to visit, to enjoy the peace of the countryside, and the delights of rural England. This was a selfish assumption, and gave little thought to their busy lives, work commitments, and the problems of travel, to a place with no station, and a road network stuck solidly in the 1950’s. East Anglia is a forgotten place. There is no motorway to the East, no high speed rail link to the lump in the North Sea, that nobody ever needs to go to. This is not a complaint, perhaps it is the very thing that makes it such a good place to live. It is not somewhere to drive through, to get to anywhere else. Neither is it a place to live, so that you can commute to somewhere busier, and more important. If there was a road sign that typified this county, it would be a cul-de sac. The life of England runs North to South, at the Western limits of East Anglia, and there is no reason to turn right, to head East; unless you live here. This fact makes local people insular, and less-travelled, than those in some other parts of the UK. I have met many people who have moved here, for retirement, or peace and quiet, but most real local people do not leave. They are born here, live here, work here, and die here. There is something old-fashioned about that, and also something compelling.

I am still a Londoner of course. To the perception of others, or when I open my mouth and speak, inside my head, and in every memory I have, it is all London, and always will be. But I am  now able to say that I am living in Norfolk, or I am from Norfolk. That may seem silly to the reader, but it is a massive change in how I view my life, and the biggest change in my life too. So, what is that Norfolk life, that I now accept as mine, and that I have lived for nearly two years? You may have read about my dog walking, and my endless wanderings with Ollie. That is part of it. My volunteering for the Fire Service has been busier of late, and getting me out to small towns and villages I never knew existed. Helping with the Cycling Proficiency at the local school is on its way to making me part of the local community, as is talking to groups about fire safety, in halls and day centres. I doubt I will become one of those people recognised in the street, stopped for a gossip, or a chat about the latest trends in smoke alarms, but I feel that I am contributing something.

My circle of friends locally has not really expanded. They are still predominantly other dog-walkers, although I know some people from the school as well now, I don’t see them outside of ‘normal duties’. I am friendly with neighbours, but we don’t really do a lot else, by way of popping into peoples’ houses, or meeting for dinner and drinks. That was something I used to do a lot, and I don’t miss it at all. My life has changed so much, I am only just now becoming fully aware of just how much. I have woken up, and smelled the proverbial coffee. I live in Norfolk now, and this is my life. And it’s not bad, it really isn’t.