The Story of Norwich – Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor, Rich Man, Poor Man, Bomber Man, Thief

The Story of Norwich – Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor, Rich Man, Poor Man, Bomber Man, Thief

Our flat is like a weather chamber. When Mother Nature decides to throw a wobbly, we hear every eruption. So last month when Storm Doris (Doris?) huffed and puffed with 90 mph winds, we feared she’d blow the house down. We decided to abandon the microloft and seek refuge elsewhere. Usually this would be the pub but on this occasion we choose the Bridewell Museum. The Bridewell charts the civic and social history of Norwich – from its modest beginnings as a few Anglo-Saxon huts on the muddy banks of the river to the pillaging Vikings, conquering Normans, religious glory days of spires and steeples, economic salvation by Flemish refugees, a spectacular rise to become England’s second city, a slow industrial decline and the city’s renaissance as a financial centre, cultural hub and UNESCO City of Literature. It’s a ripping yarn of churches and chapels, friaries and priories, martyrs and merchants, weavers and cobblers, chocolatiers and mustard makers, fire and flood, black death and blitzkrieg. Norwich was the first British city to build social houses and the first to have them flattened by the Luftwaffe – two of the many things catching my attention as we meandered through the exhibits. And what fun we had dressing up.

If you’d like to know more, check out Norwich Museum at the Bridewell.

Afterwards we did make it to a local hostelry for a few jars. Well who am I to argue with the lady?

wincarnis-wine-tonic

And so we survived Doris’ rage in one piece. Which is more than I can say for the roof.

Back to Bodrum

Back to Bodrum

Picture it, May 2012, a stone cottage in the centre of old Bodrum Town. With the house cleared and our bags packed, a young lady popped by to say farewell and to make a confession. Heart all a-flutter, she said,

I’ve just met a boy I really like. He’s called Celal but I’m worried Dad won’t approve.

The young lady in question was Esi Onursan. Readers may know of her mother, Annie, author of Back to Bodrum, the wonderful blog about the everyday life of a Bodrum returnee. As Annie herself put it…

In early 1982 I boarded a Turkish Kibris flight to Izmir – my destination was a 29 foot sloop in Bodrum’s new marina. At 22, my belongings fitted into a worse for wear sailing holdall. In 2012 I made a similar journey from Heathrow to Bodrum. Thirty years have passed and Bodrum has changed.

You can say that again.

bodrum castle4

Picture it, October 2016, a country pile on the outskirts of Mumcular…

…surrounded on three sides by an arc of dense pine-forested hills and on the fourth, a swimming pool overlooked a dusty olive grove. The house itself was centred round a striking dome-capped circular room, an architectural nod to the traditional yurts used by ancestral Turkic tribes as they migrated west from the Asian Steppes.

As I wrote in Turkey Street.

Esi was about to marry Celal, the boy she thought her father wouldn’t approve of. It was the perfect day for an alfresco wedding. Mother Nature, an unpredictable old bag during autumn, smiled benevolently. The guests gathered, the I dos were brief but perfectly formed and the newlyweds were drenched in petals of purple bougainvillea. Esi glowed and Celal beamed. Breaking with tradition, the village world and his wife were not invited. No doubt, tongues will wag for months to come. Instead, the congregation was selected, Brit-style. Annie provided a generous table and bottomless wine cellar. We ate, we drank and we made merry with friends old and new under the canopy of a small copse delicately decorated in lace and silk. Speeches were pointed and poignant. This was a bittersweet wedding. Esi’s father, Teo, wasn’t there to give her away. He had died a few months earlier.

But not before giving his approval.

Here are a few images that caught my eye from the hundreds on Facebook.

More Postcards from Gran Canaria

More Postcards from Gran Canaria

Following last week’s delivery from the Royal Mail, here’s the second batch of postcards to land on the mat.

Mad Pedro

The staff in our global holiday village are delightful, particularly Pedro, our mad barman. He services us with charm and generosity and rings his little bell every time he gets a tip. It’s like a royal wedding at Westminster Abbey when we’re around and the bigger the tip we give, the bigger the drink we get. As Pedro said to Liam:

Ah, you Engleesh with your happy hour. It’s always happy hour in Pedro’s bar!

Loose Talk

Regular readers will know I’m a dedicated eavesdropper. Here’s a small selection:

And I’ll tell you one thing for nothing. As soon as I get home, I’m back on the tramadol.

 

 We went tut Benidorm in January. It were great. We ‘ad beach to ourselves.

Oh. How come?

It were rainin’.

 

Me son’s got an apartment in Bulgaria.

Nice. Wotsit like?

Cheap but those Bulgarians…you wouldn’t trust ‘em.

 

Of course, we normally go to Goa, don’t we Jean? All-in for a tenner a day – and that includes two packs of fags and enough booze to sink the Ark Royal.

A Yumbo Cocktail

We’re just a short mince from the Yumbo Center, the largest of the many tacky shopping and entertainment centres dotted about Playa Del Ingles. As I wrote back in 2012 after our last trip…

The Yumbo Center is the throbbing epicentre of gay Canarian low-life. The Yumbo is a naff treat for all the senses, a crumbling multi-layered open air shopping and sex emporium. It started to fall apart as soon as it was built (some twenty five years ago). By day, it’s an over-sized pound shop patronised by ancient slow-lane Germans in busy shirts and socked sandals. But, at the stroke of midnight, the racks of tat are wheeled away, the garish bars throw open their doors and the entire place is transformed into a gaudy cacophonous neon-lit cess-pit of drunken debauchery.

Gran Canaria Sex Emporium

It was one of my most popular posts ever. Can’t think why. Strangely, we’ve only ventured into the Yumbo Center once so far – and then only during the day to do a bit of shopping for that must-buy momento. The venues come and go but the place never really changes – apart from the newly installed lift for the mobility-challenged. It’s true, we did stop for a daiquiri or two – for old time’s sake and to survey the footfall. Our immediate neighbours were an over-waxed Franco-German gay couple with plucked brows, precision beards and perfect pecs. They could have been separated at birth. Must be like shagging a mirror. When they weren’t fiddling with their iPhones (to check Grindr, presumably), they communicated in Globalish*. Our barman was pretty. And pretty useless. Just like every gay bar around the world.

yumbo-centre

Geordie Shore

Mercifully, the heatwave has broken. I’d started to lose the plot and I was a hair’s breath away from garrotting the leathery old early birds who always get the brollies. With plunged temperatures, Liam bundled me out of the apartmentos for an excursion to Puerto de Mogán, a marina resort on the south-west coast of the island. We went by public transport, by far the easiest way to get around. Naturally, the bus stop was like a multi-national rugby scrum. You’d think people were fleeing a war zone. Why do we Brits bother queueing?

Set on a steep-sided valley, Puerto de Mogán is built in faux Spanish colonial style and very pretty it is too. But the epithet ‘Venice of the Canaries’ is over-egging the pudding a bit. There’s just the one ‘canal’ – more of a creek really. Still, we ate tapas in a lovely marinaside restaurant followed by coffee and cake in an inviting backstreet bakery. The port’s like a mini version of Bodrum in look and feel, particularly with the dripping, multi-coloured bougainvillea. Sadly, the relaxed ambience was marred by a gang of pissed-up Geordies stalking the streets and waving empty Peroni bottles. My dad was a Geordie. He’d be spinning in his urn.

Back to Bodrum

All in all, it’s been a splendid week, with batteries, scent and cigs (for my mother) recharged. Next trip: back to Bodrum for the wedding of the year. Now that really is something to write home about.

*Globalish is the cut-down version of English used by air traffic controllers, international conferences and dating apps which is totally lacking in elegance, colour, nuance or wit.

Postcards from Gran Canaria

Postcards from Gran Canaria

Gran Canaria was just what the quack ordered. We bonked, drank, slept, drank, ate, drank, swam, drank. You get the picture. We also giggled more than we’d done in ages – at ourselves and at the exhibits around us. Here are the postcards never sent.

The Barbarian Hordes

Few would describe Gran Canaria as pretty. The volcanic rock moored off the coast of Africa gets little rain and looks like an overbaked chocolate biscuit from the air. Closer up, it’s like a giant quarry on a tea break. Nevertheless, year-round sunshine, cheap booze and even cheaper fags (of both the smoking and shagging varieties) attract the northern tribes of Europe, all in desperate need of vitamin D. Our billet for the week is a welcome oasis set among the concrete with well-tended gardens, attentive staff and a refreshing salt water pool. The only fly in the sun lotion is the scarcity of parasols. This isn’t especially helpful as we’ve landed in a heatwave and are fairly keen to avoid third degree burns. Our continental cousins are notorious for reserving their sunbeds at the stroke of midnight so, to inject some fairness, our Spanish hosts stack and chain up (yes, chain up) the sunbeds overnight. Come dawn, it’s like feeding time on the Serengeti, a daily spectacle we witness from the safety of our terrace. We’ve decided not to play. Just like Brexit.

gran-canaria

Moobs and Boobs

Our fellow sun seekers are a mixed bunch – Dutch, Germans, Austrians, Irish and Brits, but almost without exception, they have one thing in common: fat. Acres of it. Europe has an obesity crisis. We eat too much and move too little (me included). And the more mature ladies do love to let it all hang down. Who says a burkini is such a bad thing? Not me. Their menfolk are no better, wobbling to the bar, moobs a-swinging. It ain’t a pretty sight. Rest assured, I only take my top off when I’m prostrate.

An exception to the pageant of lard-arses and bingo wings is an elderly German who is in remarkably good shape and wears the tightest of trunks. He swings low in an entirely different place. We call him Melonballs. His pool pal is a round, leather-skinned hausfrau with the gravelly voice of a 40 a day habit and hair like a cockatoo. Funny really. We’re sure Melonballs is the one who’s had a cock or two.

Windbags and Wankers

All over Europe there’s a certain kind of man of a certain kind of age who is loud, opinionated and stupid. It’s our misfortune to be trapped with a classic specimen, an Austrian wanker who has cornered every Brit round the pool and lectured them on the dire consequences of Brexit (for them, of course). He’s no better than that old windbag Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, whose pompous utterings nearly made me vote to leave the EU. The Austrian bore got short shrift from me. We call him Franz Ferdinand and are praying someone will shoot him. Not literally, you understand, but you get my drift.

More postcards next week…

The Sun Has Got His Hat On, Hip-Hip-Hip Hurray

The Sun Has Got His Hat On, Hip-Hip-Hip Hurray

Lunchtime at the Iron House Brasserie on St John Maddermarket is an egg lover’s heaven – Florentine, Benedict, Royale, fried, scrambled, poached, omeletted – you pays your money, you takes your choice free-range wise. Being contrary in lunch as well as in life, we plumped for the dish of the day instead, a spicy lamb burger with a distinctive Turkish twist washed down with tap water and a fruity Sauvignon Blanc. The venue is classy but unpretentious, the staff attentive but unintrusive. All in all, a fun gig.

After the first bottle, we got the taste. Well, you do don’t you? The sun had got his hat on putting everyone in a bright mood so we opted for a boozy crawl home, first to the Sir Garnet  then on to the Champion. I took a few snaps along the way.

Liam was a tad tipsy by the time we fell through the front door of our micro-loft and was snoring like a whoopee cushion by 9pm. ‘Tis my cross to bear.

Superior Wisteria

Superior Wisteria

The weather may be a little bit rubbish at the moment with low pressure rolling in from the plains of Northern Europe but this hasn’t held back the wisteria dripping from the railings of St Giles Church. Last year’s show was impressive enough but this year’s lilac pageant is Oscar-winning. A gorgeous smell hits the senses as you pass by. Something to savour while it lasts.

An M&S Winter

An M&S Winter

Watching Mother Nature drench our windows brings memories of mad Turkish weather flooding back. People who haven’t experienced it first-hand simply don’t believe me when I say our Aegean winters were a real challenge. It’s the Med, right? How bad can it be? How about a split personality of hurricane rain, typhoon winds and cyclone floods followed in quick succession by crisp bright mornings and balmy afternoons of warm dazzling sun? Whatever the drama going on outside, inside was constantly cold and draughty. Despite our valiant efforts, we never quite managed to get the heating right and, in the depths of winter, most evenings were spent under a duvet. We dressed in fleecy layers and praised the Lord for the cosy Marks and Sparks slippers insulating our tootsies from Jack Frost snapping at our heels. Actually, I had never owned a pair of slippers before our move to Turkey and it came as some relief to find two small M&S outlets in Bodrum.

For the uninitiated, Marks and Spencer is:

A clothes and food retailer, the cornerstone of the high street and as British as the Queen, except Her Maj is German and most M&S products are imported.

As described in Turkey Street’s Turkipendix Two: A Word or Two in British.

Naturally, there’s an M&S here in Norwich, a large one too. It’s quite a draw for the county’s well-heeled grey herd in their waxed jackets and Jaeger. The store features a fancy vertical garden which, as you can see, takes some effort to prune.  As for the old M&S slippers? I finally threw them out last year. Replacements not required.

M&S Norwich Vertical Garden