A village odyssey -
June 17th, 2005 to June 16th, 2006
Life in a village
is ever changing, although on the surface it seems at times to be
that surface and you come across changes to the life of the village at
every turn. Some of these changes come in the physical shape of the
village with new developments, buildings erected and buildings torn
More than this,
things are continually happening in a village the size of Hethersett -
small subtle changes. People move away, others come to live, sadly the
old die and happily many others are born to spend their informative
years in the village.
Similarly over a
year a lot can change and happen in a village. That is why I have
decided to entitle this section a village odyssey. It will chronicle
some of the changes in Hethersett between June 2005 and June 2006 and
just some of the things that took place in the village during this
It is, of course,
impossible to cover everything. There really is so much going on. So
what follows can only act as a partial chronicle and commentary on the
village and little more. And I make no apology for taking a personal
view because sadly this is probably as much about me as it is about the
I spend much time
travelling, which takes me away from the village, so I cannot hope that
this piece does little more than capture the feel of the place as we
enter the second half of the first decade of the new century.
It is designed to
be read in tandem with similar writings put together at the turn of the
century. So here goes .....
Friday 17th June
When asking myself
just what prompted me to start these reflections on a Friday in the
middle of June, I realise that a mixture of hot weather, the end of the
working week and a visit to Park Farm Hotel were probably the catalysts.
And so it's a big
thank you to the youngsters of Wymondham High School for opening my
creative???? Juices once again.
It was just after 7
p.m and myself and Anne had enjoyed a swim and session in the steam room
at the Park Farm leisure club. Being already hot, we found a relatively
cool corner to have a meal and watched as Year 11 of Wymondham High
School gathered outside for their end of year prom.
But this wasn't
just any ordinary gathering. Admittedly the youngsters were
"dressed up to the nines" but it was the youthful exuberance
and continual line of limos, old cars, lorries, bikes and chauffeur
driven vehicles that really caught the eye. These youngsters were doing
it in style.
"Makes me wish
I was 16 again," said one person in the bar. My immediate response
was "yes" but on closer reflection perhaps it should have been
"no". Being 16 - is it an age of uncertainty or an age when
anything and everything is possible? Is it a time for worrying and not
knowing about the future or a time of joy and unlimited possibilities?
Certainly it is a time untainted by the demands of day to day life and
the corporate rat race that we seem all to be embroiled in.
reason, these youngsters were determined to have a good time and that I
applaud with my whole heart.
those reading this from outside Norfolk, a short explanation. Wymondham
is a town about three miles from Hethersett. It is pronounced Windham as
opposed to the town in Leicestershire which is pronounced Wymondham,
which is all very confusing. But as they say in Norfolk "We do
Today was the
warmest of the year by far and a precursor to a hot and steamy weekend
(weather-wise that is). We had a birthday in the office and that meant a
lunchtime trip to the Queen's Head with staff to enjoy a cooling drink
and some sandwiches. When the sun comes out the village looks totally
My youngest son
Matt was on duty at Park Farm during the evening and I made a mental
note to ask him tomorrow how the evening had gone. Matt is awaiting the
results of his university work and expects to hear next week what class
of degree he has obtained from Leeds Met. In honour of this fact he is
going abroad ahead of the results coming through!! We will text him if
it's good news.
He is awaiting his
final interview to join Norfolk Police -if successful that will mean
half of the family joining that august organisation. In the meantime he
works at Park Farm - a job he finds to be pleasant and reasonably
undemanding. And when he's not doing that he will be playing either
cricket or football for the village.
Once the students
had gone in for their meal things calmed down and we finished our meal
and then took the opportunity to walk home, by which time some of the
heat of the day had disappeared and been replaced by a light but still
was revealed! And the cricket team were involved in a nail-biting finale
to their top of the table clash with Great Yarmouth.
But first Matt
spilled the beans on last night's prom. At least that's better than
spilling the soup during the event. Obviously the youngsters were in
high spirits and not adverse to a bit of gentle kidding along the lines
of "I seem to have lost my napkin" or "Can I have another
fork as I seem to have dropped the last one."
I think at one time
he placed a number of forks on one particular table designed to
"last you the rest of the night."
I think he felt
rather detached from these people despite only being five years older.
Anyway it was a
steamy hot day with temperatures approaching the 90s and so at around
9.30 a.m we took the car to the Methodist Church where we were helping
to serve morning coffee and "light lunches." They had a
display of press cuttings and the history of the church and I was rather
surprised to catch a glimpse of myself lined-up to take part in a
five-a-side soccer tournament as part of a Methodist fete at Whiterails
Also on the side
were John Larner, Ron Baker, Terry Reeve and somebody I didn't recognise
at all. John still lives in the village and lectures on physiotherapy (I
think) at the UEA. Terry was a work colleague at the time and is one of
the best known characters in Bungay and one of the world's great
optimists. He would never accept defeat when playing football and I can
remember his cry of "plenty of time to go yet chaps" despite
losing 6-0 with just five minutes to go. I have no knowledge of how the
soccer went that day or what other teams we played.
I must stop at this
point and mention my dear friend Ron Baker who was also in that team.
Ron suffered a brain aneurysm in January and after a number of weeks in
Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridgeshire and a major brain operation was
moved to the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and subsequently
the Colman Hospital for rehabilitation. I very much miss our chats and
coffee sessions and he is constantly in my thoughts.
Hethersett Revealed is basically a two day event showcasing arts, crafts and various other things in the village and it all kicked off with an opening ceremony in Oak Square which featured a town crier, the rector of Hethersett and a vintage fire engine. I didn't quite grasp the relevance of the fire engine.
There were events all over the place. but as this is a personal reflection I can only mention a trip to the library where the children were being entertained and that was about all the revelations I could take for one day.
Being so hot I was glad to get over to Tas Valley at Flordon mid afternoon to watch Hethersett Cricket Club's top of the table clash against Great Yarmouth in Norfolk League Division Three.
The Hethersett team moved from the village a few seasons ago although some of their sides still play on the Memorial Playing Field. At first I was very much against this move as I felt it was taking good class village cricket away from Hethersett. I soon changed my mind after seeing just what facilities they have at Flordon.
Their purpose built ground is a delight. Situated around fishing lakes and open countryside it is one of the prettiest settings for cricket in the county and the Swiss chalet style clubhouse is far and away better than the facilities back in the village.
And above all, in the shade it was beautifully cool, although on the pitch the temperatures were in the 90s. When we got there the match wasn't going to plan with Hethersett struggling with three wickets down (I apologise to any of my American friends reading this. They will have no idea what I'm on about. Cricket is beyond them. So I suggest they just flip on to Sunday's entry).
Anyway matters went from bad to "badder" (a bit like dumb and dumber). They soon had six wickets down and it looked as if they would be setting Yarmouth a very modest total. But then in the parlance of cricket that only devotees can understand - the tail began to wag.
Basically this means the later batsmen began to score runs and plenty of them. Hethersett's great strength is they have no batting rabbits (now even I can understand how these terms can be misleading). It means the lower order batsmen are as capable of scoring runs as the early batsmen.
It meant they ended on 192-9 from their 45 overs. Yarmouth always seemed to be behind the necessary run rate but always in with a chance and it needed cool heads from the Hethersett bowlers to see the home side to victory. Yarmouth needed 15 off the last over and 10 off the last two balls to tie and two sixes to win.
When Yarmouth smashed a six off the penultimate ball it set up a last ball nerve jangling finale. John Curtis bowled a fine length ball from which Yarmouth failed to score and Hethersett were home by three runs.
Matt had a good game with an unbeaten 26 with the bat and taking 1-42 from nine overs with the ball.
Anyway all those cricket-haters and Americans can now start reading again as I'm moving on to Sunday ...
Sunday June 19th
Hethersett continued to be revealed with more happenings today. I only attended two because the heat was excessive. That meant a midday visit to the grand fete at Hethersett Hall, which frankly was a disappointment.
The main disappointment came in the miniscule number of people there - perhaps it was just too hot. So after a beefburger lunch and an ice cream we decided to walk to the church.
Now I don't mind admitting that there is something highly comforting about this building, which probably accounts for the fact that I seem to have taken photographs from just about every conceivable angle. I find it stunningly beautiful and a real surprise when you suddenly come across it from the Norwich direction. It seems almost aloof and detached from the main village, but at the same time such an integral part of Hethersett life.
There were some floral items, displays from village organisations including the cricket and cycle speedway clubs and some colourful bosses from pupils at the Middle School. And above all there were refreshments.
And there was also Chris Barrenger to take us on a guided tour of the grounds, looking at the church from the outside and making us realise, perhaps for the first time, that it is a miracle that the building is still standing. Inside it seems to have a dramatic lean to it and outside it seems to be held up by a series of buttresses and perhaps divine providence!
It was an enjoyable visit that would have been infinitely more enjoyable without the ridiculously hot weather. Don't they know that if us Brits want hot weather we go to Spain. We don't expect it at home!!!
I walked home - over a mile and by the time I arrived I was a dripping mess. So this part of the jottings is dedicated to all those who suffer from Hyperhidrosis. That's a fancy name for excessive sweating and I suffer in a big big way.
It means I cannot tolerate anything above 70 degrees. It must be my age but I still talk about temperatures in fahrenheit. To me talking about 80 or 90 degrees conveys horror whereas 30 centigrade sounds cold when in reality it's in the same Hyperhidrosis zone. I'm the same about inches and centimetres and pounds and kilograms. And don't mention other modern things like text messaging. I actually got a text message from a work colleague recently. They are just out of University and talk in code e.g C U 2morrow. I have talked 2 my M8. I texted back offering a course in spelling. I'm happy texting but to me it's always going to be the full monty. I will not bastardise the English language to save time or be clever.
So with apologies to dear Julie but cop a load of this - Hey pete! I am prob driving u mad wiv my txts! Sorry just thort I shud let u no that I am going out 2nite but I wil take my fone wiv me but may not b able 2hear it. so pls leave me a msg if u get a call an I wil get bak 2u asap!
I rest my case. Anyway back to Hyperhidrosis. It's a horrible affliction. It means taking four showers a day at the height of things and wishing it was winter and horrible things like that which makes a mockery of driving around in the summer singing Beach Boys songs. Your mind says "Hey wouldn't it be great to be on the beach in California or Bondi now." "Well no actually because I would just be drenched and slinking away in the shade and wishing it was winter.
My problem is I break out into a sweat in the heat if I just walk 50 yards and once you get hot the heat just stays in there. It's not as if I'm out of condition. Despite my advanced age (52 at the last count) I still go to the gym twice a week and can still play two hours of tennis against a very fit 21 year old son. So stamina is no problem, but going beetroot red is.
Anyway by the time I got home I was well and truly in the hyperhidrosis zone and had to stay indoors for the rest of the time. Such is life.
Monday 20th- Friday 24th June
The heatwave continued and I don't think many people in the village can remember so many consecutive days of temperatures in the high 80s and low 90s. So for me there wasn't much moving about the village. There was lots of falling asleep early in the evenings and a barbecue. By Friday it was all threatening to turn nasty, however, with storms possibly on the way.
Saturday 25th June
Hallelujah. There was a wind, no sun and temperatures plummeted and to celebrate I still went out in a T-shirt. It was my way of protesting against the heat. There has to be an upside to Hyperhidrosis and it comes in the fact that I do not usually feel the cold. So when the temperatures get down to a very cool 50 degrees I still walk around in a T shirt.
By and large I kept holed up at home today, however, as I caught up on a number of boring areas that will be of no interest to anyone. My one outing was to the library.
Now I get quite obsessive about Hethersett Library. I love the place. It's full of books. Now that may seem an obvious statement but not everyone would agree that to be unmitigated joy. For me books are nirvana and I don't mean the Seattle grunge band either. Here within one housing are the inspiration of so many (apart from the Romance section of course) and where else would you find books on the history of salt or chocolate, apart from in a book shop of course.
But Hethersett Library is just so much more. There's newspapers to read, CDs and DVDs to borrow and the delightful "library ladies." Yes I'm going to mention them by name. Jenny, Sue, Maureen, Linda et al take a bow. Where else can you find such a group of helpful and friendly people who make the library such a vibrant and enjoyable place? They practice Customer Care with two capital Cs.
This library is as far removed from the old fusty "Silence" buildings of years ago. Here children are encouraged to express themselves. There are plenty of special events and the library is very much part of the community. At one point I was going three times a week, but I realised that I needed therapy for that and after counselling I can now restrict myself to two or even one visit.
For a time coffee was served in an attempt to make the library more customer friendly. I helped with the rota but it never took off as our record number of customers seems to have been three in an entire morning!! There just seems to be something incongruous about walking around with loaded coffee cups whilst browsing books.
Sunday 26th June
Thirteen gardens were open to the public today as part of a charity day to raise funds for MacMillan Cancer Research and Hethersett Village Environmental Improvements - two very worthy causes.
As for gardening. Well me and it are not good bed partners, which is something I cannot understand. I have to admit that both my father and grandfather were very keen gardeners, prizewinners and keen exponents of the art of being outside from dawn to dusk.
I have none of their interest, which often makes me wonder whether I might be a product of the milkman who I understand used to like music, sport and writing (only joking).
The difficulty about writing is it can be exactly what YOU want it to be but can be interpreted in a completely different way by others. So nobody quite knows when you are being serious about a matter or when you are trying to be caustic, amusing or ironic. That means I have to make incessant use of !!!! marks, not to mention the odd bracket or two. Perhaps I should start using italics when I'm not being serious. Okay I'll give that a go.
Gardening is of course pretty much in your face and in front of you. And I have never understood why I don't like it. Perhaps it's too much like hard work. But the honest answer is I don't understand it. I have no ability in this area, any more than I have in diy - the phrase all fingers and thumbs springs to mind.
But in honour of the fact that temperatures had cooled and I couldn't spend all day writing no matter how much I wanted to, when Anne went off to the Methodist Church (more of that later) I clipped the front hedge and tidied up the edges of grass at the front and back. Isn't it strange that when you do something you don't want to the time drags and you know the rest.
"I really don't want to spend my entire life gardening" I often hear myself saying when in reality I spend an infinitesimal time so doing and certainly much less than in many other pursuits such as going to work (note the italics there and also the fact it's in a bracket). You'll eventually get used to them. Do I need a similar device when I'm feeling aggressive or passionate about something. Maybe I should put those thoughts in bold type. Okay I'll give that a go as well.
Anyway I thought it took a lot of effort on my part to spend the afternoon going round gardens and talking to people who loved the pursuit, all the time pretending that I am a keen gardener as well. I always thought one of my faults was trying to be all things to all people.
We walked round no fewer than 13 gardens which were spread all over the place. Hethersett is a large and rather sprawling village nowadays. I was impressed with the variety in the gardens. They ranged from my favourite which was a tiny walled garden replete with tiny lemon and banana trees to half acre expanses including vegetable garden and orchards.
I feel the need to explain the small garden a bit. It was virtually the same size of that of my elder son's garden in Eastbourne. But the owner had made use of every inch of space with purpose built benches, barbecue and plants. It really was a marvel of construction and I couldn't help but be impressed. I think the owner was also trying to be ironic because in his entry in the programme used a ! mark with the simple phrase "Tropical garden with banana trees!" I think he was looking for the response "Don't be silly, that's not possible in Hethersett." But it is and it was - excellent.
The half acre gardens (and I believe there were two of them) were excellent in a completely different way. They made you think "how does a person keep all this lot going?" It all proves just what can be achieved through enthusiasm and a lot of skill. For the record the gardens visited were in Cartmel, Churchfields, Haconsfield, Grove Road, Lynch Green, Meadow Close, Park Drive. Central Close and Priory Road.
It also gave us the opportunity to have a good walk round the village for the first time for ages. We were accompanied by friends Chris and Marion Watt, which meant there were three teachers in our foursome. It's always interesting going out with Chris and Marion as I'm chair of governors at the school where they teach. It hasn't hampered our friendship and hopefully never will.
We had a good look at the development on the old Harvey's Garage site which I think is quite impressive and sympathetic to the area. I know there are some people in the village who wouldn't agree with me.
The village is still quite perturbed by the impending development in the Myrtle Road area and I share their concern. Despite the parish, district and county councils being against the development, a government inspector overturned their views and gave the go ahead. And that was that. There was no appeal, which makes you wonder about democracy and how much clout local people really have when there were obvious and serious concerns about access to the site and more development putting additional pressure on already over-used services such as doctors and schools.
You can see the above two paragraphs were written in bold type meaning they are my opinions and of a serious nature. One of the great things about writing is it mirrors village life - there are times to be witty (or should I say attempt to be) and times to be serious. You might say all life can be reflected in both.
Another one of the delights of the open gardens was meeting so many people that we knew and having a chat with them. Sadly I may have opened my mouth too quickly when good old Liz Hovey pointed out to one of the organises that "Peter and Anne have a really nice garden and I'm sure they would be delighted to open it next year."
The response was probably unsurprising: "That's great where do you live?"
Now I could have made up any address in the entire village. But what did I do. Yes I adopted George Washington syndrome. You know the one "Father I cannot tell a lie" and blurted out our true address. Sadly these jottings are due to end before next year's event so you will probably never know whether we went through with it, although if you ask nicely I might come clean. I will talk about dear Liz at a later date.
I will forgive you at this point for asking the obvious question: "If you hate gardening so much, how can you have a nice garden?"
The answer is simple - Anne enjoys the hobby. I have tried to break her of it but to no avail. So I'll just keep quiet about it and pass it off as my own work (does that ring a bell to all you people employed in industry?)
Anyway it was a long old haul. We just managed to get round them all before the 5 p.m ending and I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon. It wouldn't have been so good in high temperatures.
To Be Continued.