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A Life of Poverty and Chastity

The only English example of a beguinage (a community of lay women living a life of poverty and chastity). The pretty thatched-roofed building is now the Briton's Arms Restaurant

A couple of old London reprobates decided to slum it in the shires for the day, joining us for a belated celebration of our wedding anniversary. Happily, the sun also joined us, and we went in search of an al fresco lunch. We found it at the Britons Arms, one of Norwich’s oldest buildings – all thatch, beams and creaky floorboards. Dating back to the Fourteenth Century, the building is reckoned to be the only English example of a medieval ‘beguinage’, a community of lay women living in poverty and chastity – just the place for a quartet of stately old homos to anoint themselves with the Devil’s brew. As I reminded my old mucker, Ian, the only time he was ever chaste was circa 2003 when he shunned the amorous advances of a randy German with a nasty feather-cut who was stalking him along a frosty canal in old Amsterdam. Ah, those were the days.

Converted to an ale house in the Eighteenth Century, the Britons Arms has been a coffee house and restaurant since the early Fifties. The pretty, secluded garden tumbles over the graveyard of nearby St Peter’s Hungate, one of Norwich’s most ancient churches and now a centre for medieval art. Lunch at the Arms was simply divine and the boys kindly picked up the tab. We’re always grateful for the kindness of our well-to-do metrosexual cousins. Especially when the wine bill alone reaches three figures. When the boys headed home to the Smoke the following morning, they were carrying their livers in a Sainsbury’s bag. They’re off to Vienna next month for the Eurovision Song Contest. Not that they’re gay stereotypes or anything. This time, they’ll be flying their livers back from Austria in their hand luggage. Business class, naturally.

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