Come Christmas time, the patients at the surgery where Liam earns an honest crust are a generous lot. Gifts of biscuits, sweets, chocolates and the odd bottle of booze flood in. Liam comes home laden with festive fancies. We keep a few and donate the rest to St Stephen’s Church. It’s an ancient pile, founded over 900 years ago and now mostly dating from the sixteenth century. The roots might be old but the approach of the dedicated team of clerics and laypeople is bang up-to-date. Community engagement and outreach are the services of the day. Much of the nave is given over to a café which…
‘… provides an open place for people to belong, whether customers, volunteers or those experiencing tough times… the café is a place of welcome, refreshment and peace.’
St Stephens Church
It’s a Heaven-sent distraction from the hubbub outside and operates a ‘pay what you can’ policy where punters can pay the suggested price, more, less or nothing at all. The church also runs a seasonal food bank for those in need. When we dropped off the Quality Street, Fox’s luxury selection and Ferrero Rocher, I apologised for only bringing sweets and biscuits. A lady with a kindly face replied…
‘Everyone deserves something nice for Christmas, don’t they?’
It was a humbling experience. I’m not religious in the slightest but if this is what the love of God means, then long may it continue.
The world may be going to Hell in a handcart but the Pansies keep on blooming – year in, year out. I keep them fed and watered and I’m grateful to those who pass by to admire the display. As the New Year dawns and more dark clouds lurk on the horizon, it’s a good time to look back at the pansies that perked the most in 2018. Life is a Cabaret, Old Chum, romped home by a mile. Who knew a drag show in a circus tent could strike such a chord?
As for the also-rans, it’s the usual eclectic bunch – as befits my random rants and ramblings from daily life: cowboys, cross-dressers, the curse of modern parlance, movie misses, gym bunnies, Hellenic heaven, and stories old and new from the Land of the Sunrise.
Life is a Cabaret, Old Chum | Can I Get, Like, a Coffee? | My Brokeback Mountain Moment | Heal Thyself | Pretty in Pink | Do You Have a Tale to Tell? | Is This the Real Life? Is This Just Fantasy? | A Hard Act to Follow | Old Money, No Money | Postcards from Crete
There’s No Place Like Home was the most shared. Similarly, in 2017, it was Home Sweet Home. So I guess there really is no place like it.
And what was the most popular post from years past? For the second year running it’s that 2012 camp classic, Gran Canaria, Sex Emporium. It’s the title that won it. Shame on you.
With 2018 all wrapped up, we’re off to the Ivy for some posh nosh and to see in the New Year. Wishing everyone peace and prosperity for 2019.
Christmas comes but once a year, thank the Lord. You can almost taste the stress in the high street from the world-weary shoppers to the fixed-grin workers with tired old tinsel in their hair. I shop early to avoid the hurly-burly. We do, though, always look forward to the John Lewis festive TV ad, and this year’s offering featuring Elton John is a cracker. But then, I’ve always had a soft spot for Captain Fantastic. Predictably, a few scrooges got all bah humbug about the extravagance in these austere times; the moral high ground can be a joyless place. Besides, it’s our job to fix the ills of society, not a shop.
This year, Liam and I are having a quiet one in the microloft. The calorific grub will come courtesy of Mr Marks and Mr Spencer and the quality of the vino will go up a notch or two. Then we’ll drop onto the sofa to foot-tap our way through Mama Mia – Here We Go Again! Out on DVD just in time for Christmas. A perfect day.
Seasons greetings to one and all. Whatever Christmas means to you, may your day be peaceful.
Liam’s birthday is only a couple of weeks after mine so we tend to celebrate our birthdays together. When I say ‘celebrate’ I don’t mean razzmatazz, wild parties, clubbing or jetting over to Paris for a romantic city break. We’ve neither the energy nor the readies these days. No, a nice meal and good conversation washed down by a bottle or two is now the order of the day. Recently, an Ivy Brasserie opened here in old Norwich town. The original Ivy Restaurant is in Covent Garden in Central London and has been serving up posh nosh to the rich and infamous for a hundred years. Back in the day, I was lucky enough to have the readies to lunch there a few times. Although pricey, the food was (and probably still is) amazing. Keen to cash in on the brand, Ivy Brasseries have started popping up all over the best places. The classic has become a chain.
So we decided to treat ourselves and give it a whirl. Was it worth it? Absolutely – lavish decor, relaxed atmosphere, exemplary service, flirtatious waiter, great food. And autumnal skies gave way to bright, warm sunshine – no jacket required. What’s not to like?
Image courtesy of The Ivy, Norwich
I’ve always said that a meal without good company is just food. And with Liam, I’m always in the best company whether it’s at a fancy bistro or sharing a bag of chips on the way home from the pub.
Long-suffering readers may remember that during our last days in Turkey I developed peripheral arterial disease which affects the blood flow to my legs. My blocked tubes meant that taking a stroll for more than a short distance was a bit of a pain. Back in Britain, I went under the knife for an arterial bypass to my nether regions. The op worked well but was only designed to fix one limb so, rather than hop to the shops for the rest of my days, the quack suggested the best long-term therapy was to walk, walk and walk again. He told me that the body, when pushed, has a remarkable ability to create new channels to pump blood. Me? Walk? I’ve promenaded many times down the years but I’ve always been more talk, talk than walk, walk. The trauma of compulsory cross-country running as a spotty schoolboy left me scarred for life. I don’t hike, roam, ramble, trek or yomp.
But I heeded the good doctor’s advice by joining a local gym, called simply, ‘The Gym’. It does exactly what it says on the tin. It’s got all the instruments of torture anyone could possibly wish for – a masochist’s wet dream. That was in 2014. I’ve been going ever since.
Here’s the torture chamber:
Has it worked? Well, yes, it has. It’s still a gruelling work in progress but I reckon I can now mince triple the distance without having to rest. And the view from the exercise bike of the sweaty gym-bunnies strutting and straining provides some distraction from my labours.
It’s my habit to pop out for a mid-morning coffee following the torture at the gym. One sunny day I parked myself outside a café to rest my weary bones, sip my americano, scan my newspaper and watch the ebb and flow of the eclectic crowd. A sallow-faced, reedy man plonked himself down in front of me. He was playing Rick Astley’s ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’ on his phone – not too loud to cause a stir but loud enough to raise eyebrows.
A silver-haired old chap with a walking stick shuffled past.
‘Like the music?’ he asked.
‘It’s fine,’ I replied. ‘I don’t mind a bit of Rick.’
‘Some Pet Shop Boys would be nicer,’ he said with a wink.
I tend to agree. And so to the Pet Shop Boys anthem which was the soundtrack to many a young man’s coming out back in the day.
Little ol’ Norwich has been voted as one of the top twelve places to live in the UK according to the Sunday Times (as reported in our local rag, The Norwich Evening News). And then Time Out London did a full page spread praising Norwich as one of the happiest cities in the realm. The magazine recommends a few places we know well – The Grosvenor Fish Bar (voted as one of the best chippies anywhere), Wild Thyme for the veggies (but sadly out of action right now due to an inconvenient fire), The Plough (prettiest beer garden in the city), The Playhouse Bar (for an arty student vibe) and Strangers Coffee House (they have their own roastery). I could’ve written the piece myself.
So why are we thinking about laying our cloth cap in God’s Own Country when the time is right? Well, we like it Oop North and, as we shuffle towards our twilight years, it pays to be on the right side of God. Just in case.
Time Out page courtesy of – you know who you are!