After an unseasonably warm October with elderly chaps flashing their knobbly knees to all and sundry on the streets, November has cooled down nicely, with ever-shorter days, damp nights and misty mornings. To perk up these tittle-me-fancies, we upped the tog on the duvet, pre-ordered the Christmas tree and topped up the logs for the wood burner. We also took a restorative Sunday stroll along the nearby River Chet to collect tit-faggots. The muddy path was littered with ’em.
If you click the first image and look really closely, you’ll spot something wild lurking in the rushes.
According to Keith Skipper’s Larn Yarself Norfolk, a tittle-me-fancy is a pansy, and tit-faggots are bundles of sticks for kindling. Well, tittle-me-fancy that. Gotta love this Naarfuk lingo.
Despite coming from a football-obsessed family and a football-obsessed country in a football-obsessed world, I’ve little interest in the beautiful game. But starting tomorrow it’ll be wall-to-wall coverage of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. Unless I move to Mars or become a hermit for the duration, it’ll be impossible to avoid the unremitting flood of games, goals, news and views coming at me from every direction. But I’m not a total killjoy. Even I hope our home countries of Wales and England do well.
But here’s the rub: how did a country with little or no tradition of playing football, no venues to speak of and summer temperatures hot enough to melt the slap on a drag queen’s face win the bid to host the big daddy of all competitions? Record bungs and backhanders, naturally – or so it’s alleged. Associated football is drowning in the filthy lucre, the richest sport on the planet, so there’s a bottomless pit of petty cash to go around. At least some sense has prevailed and kick-off has been postponed to late autumn so players and fans alike don’t drop dead in the heat.
Setting aside the well-greased palms, there’s also the small matter of civil rights – or lack thereof – in the oil-rich nation ruled with an iron fist by an absolute monarch. When it comes to the footie, Qatar may be strictly Sunday morning kickabout but it’s in the top flight for limited freedoms for women, enforced (and sometimes deadly) labour akin to modern-day slavery and oppression of LGBT people. Of course, this won’t stop the circus rolling into town to take the Sheik’s shilling.
The beautiful game just got ugly.
PS. It now seems FIFA’s President, Gianni Infantino, thinks being teased at school for having red hair and freckles is the same as being banged up in a Qatari hellhole prison for being gay. What a prat.
Once upon a time a long time ago, a pretty girl was swept off her feet by a dashing young corporal in a smart uniform and a devilish twinkle in his eye. Plucked from a small town in Ireland, she began army life on the move. Babies landed here and there – Northern Ireland, Germany, Malaysia, England and Malaysia again. My mother lapped it up, throwing herself in at the deep end as the perfect army wife. She loved the friendships and the sense of belonging, and she really loved the parties – especially the posh frocks.
After demob, my parents ran a backstreet shop – selling booze and bread and all things in between. It was a good little earner. Even during the dark days of the 1974 three-day week, they kept the lights on with candles from the cash and carry. And for the late Queen’s 1977 Silver Jubilee celebrations, Mum helped throw a street party. The till rang non-stop as the bunting fluttered in the summer breeze.
After a few happy and fruitful years on Civvy Street, Dad died, quite suddenly. Mum lost her husband, her living and her home – all at once. What did she do? She picked herself up, dusted herself down and soldiered on alone as a single mother.
After Dad died, Mum remained resolutely single for the rest of her long life. In fact, she was a widow for much longer than she was a wife. She called herself ‘the only virgin in London’, without the slightest hint of bitterness or irony. Liam called her ‘One hell of a woman’. He wasn’t wrong.
Mum was a grafter too. Not many people would catch a night bus into London’s West End five days a week to clean offices – something she did well into her seventies.
At 81 years young, she came to Turkey for my surprise 50th birthday party. She was the belle of the ball, a big flirt in a long blonde nylon wig, dragging up the fellas for a turn around the floor. But flirt was all she ever did, preferring to share her bed with a mug of tea, her puzzle books and a pack of cigarettes. ‘Keeps my brain active,’ she said. The puzzles that is, not the fags.
And she loved nothing more than recalling the stories of her flirty days of old when her dashing corporal fought for her affections with Alec, a Scotsman of some considerable means.
But Mum married for love.
When she turned 90 we threw her a bit of a do – a full house to honour our grand old dame. Despite being a bit mutton and increasingly frail, she was in fine fettle, loving all the fuss and fun, surrounded by family. The big pile of scratch cards went down well too.
Mum’s boogie nights may have been well behind her but she and I still shared a slow smooch at the end of play.
Truth be told, my mother was a bit of a fraud. How so? Well, a while back, I ordered her birth certificate. Turns out Mum was registered in the name of Dora, not Doreen. Who knew? Certainly not Doreen.
How can I describe Dora? Stubborn and contrary? Fiery and maddening? Or maybe feisty and canny, loyal and wise? Truth is, she was all these things and much, much more. An extraordinary woman, who lived an extraordinary life. A life lived in technicolor; the last of her siblings.
One thing I can say with absolute certainty: our old girl was never boring.
She would have loved her send-off – the service, the tributes, the tears and, in particular, the boozy do afterwards.
Norwich’s Maddermarket Theatre has an eclectic offering coming up in the next few months judging by the ‘what’s on’ brochure that dropped on our mat. Patrons can select from a pick-and-mix diet of comedy, drag, drama, tribute acts and music old and new – whatever takes their fancy. And what took our fancy? Well this, obviously.
Who can resist a filthy title like that?
Usually, ‘Dick Whittington and His Cat’ is a traditional festive children’s pantomime based on the legendary tale of guttersnipe Richard Whittington who went from rags to riches to become the Lord Mayor of London in the fourteenth century. We’re expecting this X-rated interpretation to bring a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘he’s behind you’!
As dedicated friends of Dorothy, it’s been a long old slog along the yellow brick road back to Oz. Two years later than planned because of COVID, we finally arrived at the Emerald City (AKA Langley School) courtesy of the Funky Theatre Company. It was well worth the trip – a joyful gig packed to the rafters with energy and enthusiasm. Full marks to wardrobe for the incredible costumes. And to the set designers who gave us a stage full of richness. From the first scene to the last, the show was non-stop magic – from the young and not so young, the leads and the ensemble. It was fantastic to see so many familiar faces treading the boards and giving us their all. Who knew there was so much talent in this little corner of Norfolk?
A special shout out must go to Karen Peck, who stepped in at the last minute to play the Wicked Witch of the West. Way to go, my pretty!