Chateau Norfolk

Chateau Norfolk

I heard through the grapevine that a bottle of vino from Norfolk had been recognised as one of the best in the world. It won a platinum best in show medal at the Decanter World Wine Awards 2017, one of the industry’s most prestigious competitions. Fancy that! The winning white, the Bacchus 2015, comes from the family-run Winbirri Vineyard on the edge of the Broads National Park. Apparently, the name Winbirri comes from the Anglo-Saxon ‘win’ for wine and ‘birri’ for grape – though I suspect rough beer was the tipple of choice back in the day for those merry Angles of old swigging from their drinking horns, Beowulf-like. And so it is again, judging by the spectacular revival of indie brewers across East Anglia. These days, it’s artisan ale and hipster whiskers at every tavern. Drinking horns have yet to come back into fashion. Give it time.

English wines have been winning gongs galore for a while now. The weather’s brighter these days, it’s a global warming thing. With rising sea levels, we might as well make merry before the North Sea laps about our knees. At 14 quid a bottle, the Winbirri winner is a bit pricier than the plonk we normally guzzle but we thought we’d give it a go to see what all the fuss was about. All sold out. Sad face.

Images are courtesy of Winbirri.

Happy Anniversary, Liam

Happy Anniversary, Liam

It’s our wedding anniversary today. Unlike the resurrection of Christ, it’s not a moveable feast. We celebrated our nuptials a day early with a boozy lunch at one of Norwich’s finest eateries followed by a slow pub crawl back to the loft. The food was divine but the delicious highlight was when an elderly Norfolk broad sitting at the adjacent table said loudly to her companions.

‘The same thing happened to me during my colonoscopy.’

wedding rings

Liam slipped his ring on my finger seven years ago. I suppose I ought to have an itch to scratch, but my senses have been so dulled by yesterday’s excess I can’t feel a thing.

Jay Talking

The incomparable Roving Jay recently blew into town for a few bevvies, a bite and a chin wag. She was on a pilgrimage to the Norfolk flatlands of her birth and catching up with her folks. Luckily for me, she detoured to Norwich to pick up where we left off last time we met and this time, Liam joined us for a boozy threesome. First stop was a couple of bottles in the Lamb Inn, a lively little watering hole where the ridiculously low ceiling makes everyone look tall. Even me. Hair gel was being applied like Dulux emulsion. Next up, gourmet grub at Cinema City’s swanky Dining Rooms, a bar-restaurant with an old vaulted ceiling, a medieval courtyard and a mini multiplex in the east wing. Last time, the rural hit-and-miss bus schedule conspired against us and Jay flew away prematurely. This time, she threw caution to the wind, stayed for a natter and jumped into a Hackney cab at the end of the night.

BPTG 3D right CroppedThose who are familiar with Jay will know that she is a devoted Turkophile and a holiday resident of glorious Gümüslük. In 2013, she realised a long-held ambition and published a fabulous guidebook about the Bodrum area. Jay is a bit of a magpie and the Bodrum Peninsula Travel Guide is a meticulously researched, first-hand account of the little corner of Turkey we called home for a while. The e-book is doing well, very well. That’s because it’s good, very good. Summer’s just round the bend so if you’re heading Bodrum-way this year you’d be mad not to pick up a copy. For more information about Jay’s must-have guide, click here.

Jay’s next big thing is a more detailed guide to Gümüslük and it will include offerings from others in the know; she was even mad enough to ask me for my tuppence-worth, but don’t let that put you off. The Gümüslük guide will be the first in an exciting series of in-depth guides of towns on the Peninsula. To find out where Jay the magpie’s at with all of this, do check out her portfolio of websites. There’s an awful lot to see.

Roving Jay

Jay Artale

Yalikavak Travel Guide

In the meantime, sit back and see what all the fuss is about…

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Gorillas in Our Midst

Gorillas in Our Midst

Gorillas

We got back from holiday to face an invasion of psychedelic gorillas. I thought someone had slipped some acid in my gin and I was tripping the light fantastic. Don’t fret, I haven’t taken to class A drugs and mugging old Norfolk broads to feed a nasty habit. Not yet anyway.

Looking like the camp cast of ‘Planet of the Apes, the Panto,’ these unique and rather fabulous specimens of street art form the 53-strong gorilla trail around the city organised by the ‘Go Go Gorilla’ campaign. According to their website the trail will…

“… take place for 10 weeks during the summer of 2013 and will encourage thousands of people to discover and re-discover the city of Norwich, provide community and education projects and highlight environmental issues and the plight of one of the world’s most endangered species.”

At the end of the exhibition, the multi-coloured silverbacks will be auctioned off for charity. Bid early to avoid disappointment. Remember, a Guy’s for life, not just for Christmas (so says Liam). It certainly knocks spots off a naff garden gnome, not to mention the pushy teenagers in the street gripping clip boards to extract direct debits for the World Wildlife Fund.

Here’s a small selection:

The Go Go Gorilla campaign got into a bit of hot water with the Freddie Mercury estate when one of the exhibits aped the late great Queen showman in his cloney stage clobber. Breach of copyright, apparently. It was removed from the forecourt of the Forum – to be repainted. Boo, hiss. Unlike the stuffy suits running his estate, I’m reliably informed that Mr Mercury had a wicked sense of humour and a charitable bent.

Freddie

I rather hoped that Freddie the Gorilla would be resurrected in full drag as a tribute to the ‘I Want to Break Free’ video. Sadly, it was not to be. Freddie was reinstated today, sprayed black and minus his tash, crop top and signature buck teeth. So now it’s just any old primate in a Queen jacket. Still, all the fuss gave the campaign a bit of a boost and got them on the BBC.

Here’s my personal favourite, a mean-looking bugger with a strangely benign face. He’s less adorned than the others with just a light dusting of glitter sparkling away in the sun. Clearly, this Guy is not afraid of his feminine side. Or perhaps Guy’s really a Gal?

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Behind the Candelabra – Venereal Warts and All

Behind the Candelabra – Venereal Warts and All

Behind the CandelabraI’m old enough to have caught the tail-end of Liberace’s long and very successful career as pianist to ladies of a certain age. Despite being the most outrageous old queen in the business and the rampant tittle-tattle about his bawdy private life, Liberace got away it by suing the arse off anyone who told tales out of school and playing the I-just-haven’t-found-the-right-girl tune to his myopic fans. Back in the day, it was easier to maintain the lie. If he was still alive and tinkling, the Twitter generation and the red tops would have a field day, particularly as Walt loved to play fast and loose with his reputation by buggering the boys in back rooms. So, with a sparkling set of reviews, we anticipated the Liberace biopic ‘Behind the Candelabra‘ with some relish. Was the film worth the hype? Well, yes and no. Michael Douglas as the rhinestone peacock was superb. He deserves an Oscar but won’t get one as the film was made-for-TV by HBO in the States (though he will qualify for a BAFTA here in old Blighty). Matt Damon as the young lover sported a suitably rabbit-in-headlights look and Rob Lowe almost stole the show as a deliciously wicked pill-pushing plastic surgeon who’d been under the knife once too often himself. The film caught the gas-guzzling Seventies’ mood brilliantly and there were some good lines. By the end of the performance though, too many things were left unsaid. When Liberace’s elderly mother died (an unrecognisable Debbie Reynolds) his response was, “Now I am free.” Why? We’re not told. I found myself getting a little bored as the glitter-sprinkled film camped along to its inevitable conclusion and became irritated when the Middle England audience giggled in embarrassment at some of the mildly raunchy scenes and ripe language. Ladies, it wasn’t that graphic. You really need to get out more.

Ye Olde Curiosity Shop

Ye Olde Curiosity Shop

The traditional high street is under seige from a flat-lining economy, increased rents (no, I don’t understand that either during a recession) and the relentless pressure from the big boys with their charmless out-of-town retail parks sucking up all the trade. Norwich seems to have bucked the trend by preserving its novelty. Of course, the narrow maze of city centre streets has its fair share of chains with their identikit offerings but there’s also a treasure trove of independents to graze. Maybe the city’s relative isolation is its saviour (the last section of the dual carriageway from the Smoke is only now being built and the train service is express-less). Perhaps it’s a benign planning environment by farsighted burghers. Who knows? Whatever the reason, long may it continue. Here’s just a small sample to whet the appetite and loosen the purse.

Jarrolds is a Norwich institution. The family-run business has outlets dotted about all over the shop. The Book Hive is the best independent bookshop in town. Both Jarrolds and the Book Hive declined to stock my book. Jarrolds refused (politely). The Book Hive didn’t respond at all. I don’t hold it against them (much).

The Grosvenor Fish Bar on the corner of Pottergate and Lower Goat Lane offers delicious, artery-hardening deep-fried heart attacks. It gets my vote because punters are welcome to finger the fish over a pint in the pub opposite. Personally, I prefer to nibble on a battered sausage (cue Liam). The public house in question, The Birdcage, has been the scene of our undoing many times now.

Fish Bar and Pub

I doubt Meryl Streep ever visited this corner of the Dark Continent when she was attempting a truly terrible Viking accent in ‘Out of Africa.’  Do they really sell slices of crocodile, ostrich, springbok and zebra? Well, if Tesco’s can flog donkey burgers, why not?

Liam spends endless hours thumbing through the sheet music in this old-school music shop as he contemplates a profitable sideline teaching piano. He’s quite talented with his fingers, my Liam. This little gem is right along the street from our weaver’s cottage.

St George's Music Shop

Finally, my personal favourite – not because I’m a cock in a frock at weekends and call myself Jacky but because Pepperberry’s sell ‘clothes designed with your boobs in mind.’  It’s just as well, as I have noticed that quite a few Norfolk broads do look like they’ve eaten all the pies.

Pepperberry

Shop ‘Til You Drop

Shop ‘Til You Drop

With the weather finally on the up and blossom dripping from the trees, the citizens of Norwich were out in their droves doing what the Brits do best – shop and sup. Purses and plastic were loosened in a brave attempt to drag the economy out of the abyss. Technically, the economy is as flat as a witch’s tit, rather than triple dipping and the patient needs all the TLC it can get. Market stalls toppled out onto the pavement, till queues weaved round Primark, the M&S food hall heaved with Norfolk broads and we couldn’t find a table in Pret a Manger when we bagged a baguette.

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We escaped the madding crowd by browsing the floor show in the Forum. Modern art isn’t everyone’s cup of char but Liam loved it.  I left him to peruse the exhibits and ordered a couple of drinks at the bar. Cheers!