Tits with Chicks

Tits with Chicks

The top floor of the old Co-op warehouse provides a bird’s eye view of the low-rise streets beyond. England is famed as a wet-weather country but the east is less damp than the rest and we are blessed with some conversation-stopping God skies. The cloudiness only helps to intensify the divine display. The micro-loft provides the ideal hide to watch birds as they feed and breed, swoop and soar. And this year, we were chuffed to offer a dry roost beneath our eaves for a pair of tits with chicks. Liam shed a little tear when the fledglings flew the nest. Bye-bye, birdies, bye-bye.

Sunset over Norwich

Despite the urban jungle around us, we’re often serenaded by early morning birdsong. Mostly it’s tweety and melodic, gently stirring us from our slumber. But not when the gulls muscle their way in. Norwich’s maritime days as a secure inland port where tasty morsels could be scavenged at the quays may be long gone but no one’s told the thuggish gulls that shriek and squawk at 5am. It’s enough to wake the dead.

 

On the Lash

On the Lash

It’s sod’s law. The warmest day of the year so far and I’m home alone. Our large south-facing windows can make the micro-loft a tad sweaty during the afternoon, so I popped out for a paper and a pint. Norwich was abuzz with shoppers in shorts, brats in caps and over-inked scallies in baggy sweatpants. A mixed bill of buskers competed for loose change but none captured the crowd more than King No-One, a young indie rock band from York on a national street tour. They were surprisingly good and received a warm hand. Judge for yourself…

I parked myself on the only free bench outside a local hostelry next to a squad of half-naked lads out on the lash – their tats and tits out for the girls. Rutting Brits are renowned for stripping off at the first hint of a sunbeam, and it isn’t always pretty.  Sadly, the hot totty next to me was more tepid than steaming. As regular readers will know, I’m a dedicated earwigger and I tuned in to the conversation while pretending to pore over the latest batch of dishonest general election promises.

How much does aircon cost to run?

Why do you care? You’re an electrician.

So? I don’t a get a special rate, you know.

You’re out on the lash every night – and you worry about the bills?

Yeah. That’s why I can’t afford the bloody aircon.

The young can be so dull. At least they didn’t bore me silly with inane chatter about the ‘beautiful game’.

After a second jar, I meandered back home for a TV dinner and an evening in front of the box. Sad, I know, but I rather enjoy my ‘me’ moments. As long as they’re not too often, you understand. The old warehouse accommodating our micro-loft is generally kept shipshape, but the foyer is a bit like a chimney and tends to suck in debris from the street – spring blossom, summer petals, autumn leaves, winter sludge and the occasional fag butt. As I waited for the lift, I looked down to see this:

At first I thought a bug had cadged a lift in a Tesco’s home delivery crate. It wasn’t wriggling so I poked it with a key. Turned out to be a false eyelash. Dropped by a one-eyed drag queen, perhaps? All quite normal for Norfolk.

 

Mr Grumpy

Mr Grumpy

It was my birthday recently. I reached the grand old age of 55. I now qualify for Gestapo-controlled sheltered housing, all wipe-down high-back chairs and swirly carpets that stick to the soles of your shoes. En-suite facilities are now essential for those caught short at 3am moments (so much better than a bucket by the side of the bed). Just how did this happen? I remember the days of my deliciously misspent youth when summers of love seemed endless. Now an entire year passes by in a flash and I barely notice. Welcome to the epoch of Mr Grumpy.

I received a birthday card from my sister in law. Maybe she’s trying to tell me something?Twatter

Retiring Norwich

Retiring Norwich

Norwich is a retiring kind of town, the perfect place to hang up your boots. The micro-loft is the ideal roost, a lift just wide enough for a mobility scooter (I fancy a tiffany blue number with a harlequin shopping basket in fuchsia), tiny bills that won’t break the piggy bank and a small enough footprint to make light work of domestic drudgery. We’re spitting distance from the local quack for all those inconvenient ailments that get us all in the end. The medical centre comes with a handy on-site Boots for the pills and potions that will keep us going beyond our three score and ten (fingers crossed). And, when one of us does drop off the perch, the Co-operative funeral parlour is right next door (I hear they do a lovely spread, or is that spread you out lovely?) with the Samaritans opposite for the grieving widower. Should either of us try to hedge our bets by finding Jesus at the last minute, we’ve got a church on the corner. Amen to that.

On the Seventh Day of Christmas

2014 has been quite a year for us and our brethren…

The Seventh Day of Christmas

Okay, okay, I tried to make it scan to the tune of ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’ but failed miserably. Liam’s the musical one, not me. With such a helter-skelter year, I guess it’s it’s no wonder I didn’t get the second book out in time for the festive rush. The good news (or bad news, depending on your point of view) is that it’s with my publisher and will be out in the new year. Liam is hyperventilating at the prospect – my fiercest critic seems to like it. The blog’s done brisk business too with over ninety posts. Here are the top ten hits for 2014 – the usual diet of Turkish delights, smut, divine retribution, emigrey nonsense, men in women’s clothes, internet curios, fine guides and the love that dare not speak its name. I’m nothing if not predictable.

There is Bodrum and Then There is Turkey | The Biggest Cock in Town | The Great Flood |  | Gumusluk Travel Guide | Pantigate | The Love Letter | Istanbul Pride 2014 | Desperately Seeking Doreen | Bearded Men in Dresses | Norwich-Over-the-Water

This was the most popular image for 2014. I can’t think why.

Tom's Posing Pouch

Here’s looking ahead to more pansy adventures in 2015. And the Man Booker Prize. And oh, a few less real life medical dramas would be nice. Happy New Year to one and all.

Turkey for Christmas

After several lean years, it seems that we Brits may be falling in love with Turkey all over again. You know things are on the up when the London Evening Standard Property Supplement runs a feature on the Bodrum Peninsula with our old cruising ground, Yalıkavak, and its fancy new marina, getting a special mention. This how I described our first glimpse of the whitewashed town in my first book, Perking the Pansies, Jack and Liam move to Turkey

As we breached the brow of the hill, we caught our first picture postcard glimpse of Yalıkavak shimmering at the end of a lush valley below like randomly scattered sugar cubes on an overgrown lawn.

Chapter 3, Back to the Future

These days the sugar cubes are tumbling over every hill and, at the top end of the market, this is what you can get:

Yalikavak

It’s the kind of dream home that costs a whole lot more than the misleading £75,000 quoted in the ad. Also, what the agents don’t tell you (and why would they?) is that if you keep all your doors and windows open after sunset, you’ll get eaten alive by mozzies. Just so you know.

The Last Rolo

Fellow author, David Gee, recently uncovered a dusty old silver screen classic while rummaging around the video vault at the University of East Anglia. ‘Come With Me to Norwich‘ is a 1952 documentary presented by Richard Dimbleby, BBC patrician and father to David and Jonathan. It’s a ghostly narrative of a bygone era full of bulldog optimism set against the rising tide of a new world order. Fast-forwarding to 2014, it’s fascinating to see what’s gone the way of the dodo and what’s survived against the odds. Mid-Twentieth Century Norwich once traded in mustard, money, shoes and chocolate. But where are they now?

Colman’s of Norwich

In 1814, mustard maker, Jeremiah Colman, founded Colman’s of Norwich, four miles south of the city. By 1865 production had transferred to a large factory near the city centre where the firm still produces mustard and mustard-derived products as an operational division of that enormous global conglomerate, Unilever.

Norwich Union

In 1797, merchant and banker, Thomas Bignold, founded the Norwich Union Society for the Insurance of Houses, Stock and Merchandise from Fire. The less than catchy name soon became known simply as Norwich Union. Today, the Footsie 100 company is branded as Aviva and is the sixth largest insurer in the world.

Startrite

It was in 1792 that a cordwainer called James Smith made the first off the peg shoes, shoes that ordinary folk could afford. Unsurprisingly, Jimmy’s big idea caught on. The business evolved into the Startrite brand, manufacturing footwear for rug rats. Startrite is still headquartered in Norwich but manufacturing has been outsourced to India. Fortunately, that wasn’t the end of cordwaining in the city. Van Dal still make half a million pairs of gorgeous heels every year for Norfolk broads, drag queens and cross-dressers everywhere. The times they are still a-changing: Startrite is looking for a deep-pocketed investor and Van Dal is being sold to its employees.

Rowntree-Mackintosh

In 1857, AJ Caley established a chemists business in London Street which evolved into a distiller of mineral water and a chocolatier. As the company grew, it moved to new premises in Chapelfield. The firm was sold off by the Caley family in 1918 and sold on to confectioners, Mackintosh, in 1932. In 1937, the first rolo rolled off the production line. This was soon followed by Munchies and Caramac, brands I have devoured with tooth-rotting regularity ever since being knee-high to a grasshopper. By 1969, Mackintosh had merged with Rowntree to make one of the world’s premier confectioners, but it wasn’t to last. In 1988, Rowntree-Mackintosh was controversially set upon by the Swiss food giant, Nestlé. The hostile takeover resulted in a period of savage cost-cutting. The Chapelfield factory was closed with a loss of over 900 jobs and all production was moved to York. The last rolo rolled off the Chapelfield production line in 1994.

There’s still a Caley’s of Norwich, manufacturer of fairtrade chocolate with an online business based in Hampshire and Caley’s Cocoa Cafe in Norwich’s Guildhall. What connection these businesses have to each other and to the old Caley family is anyone’s guess. Still, the name lives on.

Chapelfield Shopping Centre

The old Rowntree-Mackintosh chocolate factory has given way to the posh Chapelfield Shopping Centre. All that remains of the old industrial buildings are the granite millstones that used to grind the cocoa beans, now re-used as seating for the huddled gangs of smoking pariahs outside the rear entrance to the mall. Rolos have given way to Apple, Munchies to Mango. And so our post-industrial world is kept turning by rampant consumerism, conspicuous spending only interrupted by the occasional Costa coffee. Make mine a cappuccino. With a generous sprinkle of Cadbury’s on top.

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