Norwich is blessed with a wealth of hostelries to quench the thirst and chew the cud, but few are as famous as the Gardener’s Arms on Timberhill, one of the last family-owned pubs in the city. Partly dating back to the Seventeenth Century, the traditional ale house is stuffed with oldee worldee nooks and crannies, knotty oak beams and exposed brickwork. Its fame derives from an infamous past. The Gardener’s Arms might be the pub’s licensed name but, for years, it’s been known locally as the Murderers. Why? Because after closing time one late night in 1895, Frank Miles battered his estranged wife with a hammer and left poor Mildred for dead. Handy Frankie should have swung for his dastardly deed but the case attracted huge public sympathy and his death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. What had the luckless Millie done to deserve such a sticky end? Apparently, she was seen with another man. Oh, that’s alright then.
If you’re passing Timberhill, be sure to pop in for a pint of real ale and admire the murder theme posted on every wall (Dr Crippin, Lizzie Borden, Bonnie and Clyde, Ruth Ellis to name but a few). I’d avoid the big screen soccer nights, though. The beautiful game murders civilised conversation.
Grey gays are in the news right now. For a start, Joel Grey, the actor who found fame as the camp Emcee from Cabaret, came out publicly at the grand old age of 82. His revelation prompted a conversation about the point of coming out so late in life, as if sexuality only preoccupies the young. For me, coming out at any age is better than never coming out at all. I guess that’s easy for me to say but I’m saying it anyway. A story I recently heard on the radio illustrates my point. A carer used to visit an elderly man. One day he unburdened his ‘dark secret’ and confessed to her that he was gay – but his shame stopped him from ever acting on his feelings. He died as he had lived. Alone.
And then there’s the Royal Pardon granted to Alan Turing. This was the man who cracked the Enigma codes used by German U-boats in World War Two and who many historians believe shortened the conflict by two years. Alan Turing was gay. Shortly after the war, he was convicted of gross indecency (a crime that only applied to gay men) and was chemically castrated. A fine reward from a grateful nation. He committed suicide soon after.
Following a determined campaign by his family, Alan Turing was pardoned in 2013, nine years after the offence of gross indecency was itself finally repealed. Last year, a film about his life was released, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as the mathematical genius. And now, the success of the Imitation Game has encouraged a new campaign, this time to pardon all 49,000 men convicted of gross indecency. Most of these men would have had their lives torn apart by this nasty little law. Some will be still be alive. Benedict Cumberbatch, the lovely lovey with the glorious name, has signed an open letter to the British Government in support of the campaign. There’s a petition. Please sign it if you can. I think it’s the least we can do.
I’ll finish off with my own little story about coming out in old age. Liam and I were having a bottle of red in our local when we overheard a conversation by a couple of old codgers standing next to us at the bar. It went something like this:
You’re never too old for a cuddle. I wonder what the happened in the end?
I’ve always had a soft spot for Boy George, despite (or perhaps because of) his well-documented dependencies on booze and drugs, and his well-deserved real imprisonment for the false imprisonment of a rent boy in 2008. George is clean now and has been for years. From androgynous painted pop star to hard-boiled drug addict, DJ of considerable note to grubby punter, the rise, fall and rise again of George O’Dowd has been remarkable. He’s a survivor with insight, a rare commodity among the brattish celebrity class. I was never much of a Culture Club devotee but I do like a lot of George’s post-Culture Club solo work, particularly the haunting, lyrically waspish ballads that show off his voice to greatest effect. Recently, I tuned in to watch George sing with the BBC Philharmonic and I was surprised (shocked even) to hear that his voice has hit the floor (along with his balls, George recently said with typical candour). His deeper sound is growing on me. George’s latest challenge is a vocal polyp that may require surgery and it has forced him to cancel a Culture Club reunion tour. Get well soon, George.
That was then…
This is now…
A multi-coloured market is the throbbing heart of Norwich, the surrounding streets are its arteries. The daily beat is supplemented by an assortment of buskers, street entertainers and artists, all welcome to try their hand and let the discerning and not so discerning public decide who deserves a few coppers tossed in their hat. The city council encourages the trade, no licence required.
Wandering back from my daily grind at the gym, I came across several new artistic additions to the marketside streetscape.
Two People Killed Every Week
1 in 3 Women
1 in 5 Men
750,000 Children Witness Domestic Violence
Norfolk Men Say No
Norfolk Says No
If you’re knocking your partner about, get help. If you’re being knocked about by your partner, seek help. Simple but effective.
Norfolk Says No Campaign.