A bright spring sky and a benign forecast enticed us out for a countryside foray. We fancied a look around a reconstructed Iceni village near the hamlet of Cockley Cley (there’s a joke in there somewhere but I’m damned if I can find it). Cast your minds back to the history books of your early school days and the chapter on Queen Boudicca (Boadicea). As the story goes, the Iceni were a Celtic tribe who lived in what is now the county of Norfolk. Following the Claudian conquest of 43 AD, King Prasutagus of the Iceni (Boudicca’s other half) kept his crown by taking the Emperor’s shilling and becoming a client of the Romans. When he died, he left his lush forests and clearings in equal share to his two daughters and fiddling Nero. The perfidious Romans ignored his Will, flogged Boudicca, raped her daughters and took the lot for themselves. Dowager Boudicca was seriously pissed off. Bent on revenge, she joined up with other revolting tribes and went on the rampage. The startled Romans got quite a kicking and the rebellion nearly succeeded in booting the double-crossing conquerors out on their toga’d arses. The insurrection failed in the end but not before the rebels torched London (the first great fire), Colchester and St Albans, slaughtering the inhabitants. Folklore has it that the old Norfolk broad is buried under platform 9 or 10 of Kings Cross Station in London.
We stopped for tea in nearby Swaffham, a pretty market town with kerb appeal and a sprinkling of charm. Sadly, it was closed for the winter (apart for the odd charity shop and the ubiquitous and over-priced Costa Coffee). We climbed back into the car and headed south, passing open fields populated with freakish scarecrows dressed like the Ku Klux Klan. Liam muttered something about Jerry Springer the Opera and sped on towards the Iceni village. Contrary to the forecast, it started to rain. More by luck than judgement, we found the faux settlement hidden along a nondescript country lane. The gates were firmly locked, like Swaffham, closed for winter.
Memo to self – next time you fancy dipping your fat toe into the history of the Ancient Brits, Google before you go.
NB. Jerry Springer, the Opera caused quite a storm when it was broadcast by the BBC and went on national tour. Some bible-bashers with an irony deficit thought it was blasphemous. I saw the show at the National Theatre and thought it was hysterical. Here’s a clip of the tap dancing Klan. Skip to 1:38 to get to the best bit.