While we’re away in sunny Corfu chomping on the mutton, slapping on the sunscreen, gassing the bugs and gagging on the retsina (despite sage advice to go easy on the hard stuff from Annie at Back to Bodrum), here are a few snaps to remind us of home sweet home. It’s not been a bad summer, all things considered. By the way, Liam cheats at Scrabble.
When Mother Nature flicks the switch, Norfolk broads dance in the park. So it’s no surprise the summer festival season is in full swing, with tasty titbits to suit all palates.
Put the words ‘food’ and ‘drink’ together and you’ve got me hooked. So what better way to reel me in than the Norwich Food and Drink Festival? A scorcher ensured a bumper turnout, with plenty of meaty treats to whet the carnivore’s appetite. Prime Norfolk pig took top billing on the menu – pulled, sliced, rashered, minced and stuffed into sausage skins. The air was thick with a sizzling porky perfume; dedicated veggies could only drown their sorrows at the gin, vodka and wine stalls.
And then there was the eating competition between hungry locals with their I’m-the-biggest-pig-round-here demeanour. It was way too sticky to stick around so we don’t know who won, but my money was on the butch Angle at the head of the table.
As sweat dribbled down our backs and headed south into the steamy abyss, it was time to cool down with a tutti-frutti and a drop of the amber nectar. While all things East Anglian were being celebrated across the city centre, there was something of a foreign invasion in a city field.
Lads in lederhosen and wenches in dirndls were whipping up the crowds with buckets of beer and barbecued Bratwurst at the Bavarian Beerfest in Chapelfield Gardens. Brexit may well mean Brexit but nobody’s going to stop me nibbling on a German sausage. We found a shady bench, gulped the hoppy ale and tapped our feet to the thump, thump, thump of the oom-pah tunes. We hadn’t quite appreciated the strength of the heady brew. The next day it was thump, thump, thump inside our fuzzy heads.
The annual Norfolk and Norwich Festival is in full swing right now, an eclectic mix of the performing arts in venues right across the city. One of the more original festival venues is the Adnams Speigeltent in Chapelfield Gardens, a replica Edwardian erection with a handy on-site beer garden to quench the thirst. Last night, we enjoyed a night at the big top with Panti Bliss, the Irish drag queen who’s become a bit of a national treasure in Ireland since her famous exposition of homophobia last year. I wrote a post about Panti’s eloquent speech and remarked at the time that it would change minds. And it has. Panti was no less eloquent last night as she revealed funny, absurd and touching titbits from her extraordinary life. Her social commentary was razor-sharp and the copious consumption of gin did nothing to blunt the edge.
Naturally, Panti has been a dedicated supporter of marriage equality in the Irish Republic. In fact, there’s a national referendum on that very subject today. Let’s hope our friends over the water do the right thing. I’m optimistic. It will mean that across these wind-swept islands, only Northern Ireland* will be holding back the tide of social progress. And a yes vote in the Republic might just shame those dusty old Presbyterians into some positive action. But did Panti get back to Dublin in time to cast her vote?
*In fact, there is no marriage equality in the Isle of Man and Channel Islands either. Except in matters of tax evasion, these off-shore tax havens always have be dragged kicking and screaming into the modern era.
Meandering through the fairground masses in Chapelfield Gardens at Easter, I was stopped in my tracks by two unusual sights standing out from the candyflossed crowd, naff neon, tinny tunes and spinning tops. The first was this sign on the side of the coffee kiosk.
It’s a simple message that speaks volumes. Only the disagreeable would disagree with the sentiment even if the reality is rather more challenging. However, the second sight for sore eyes, a wood-carved totem pole, was slightly more inscrutable. Any ideas?
Yesterday, I left Liam indoors slaving over the final pre-edits of the new book and tootled into town to catch the bank holiday vibe. The crowds were drawn to the Easter parade of stalls flogging fast food with an international flavour – German bratwurst competed with Cumberland sausages, French fromage with the Great British Cheese Company, savoury Indian street food with overflowing troughs of sweet treats. It was as if Borough Market had parachuted in for the day. Naturally, I was drawn to the stall selling Turkish delight, baklava, olives and mezes. The swarthy geezer with tombstone teeth behind the counter wasn’t bad either.
In nearby Chapelfield Gardens, a travelling fair rose up above the neat borders. As I drew closer, the fatty aroma of fried onions and cheap burgers mugged the senses and my arteries hardened with every nostril-full. Distant memories flew me right back to my adolescent stirrings for the tattooed oiks who spun the waltzers, the kind of randy highwaymen who would take you round the back of the ghost train and relieve you of your pocket money (or at least, that’s what I imagined at the time).
There was a time when I would jump on every attraction with gay abandon. Alas, I am Braveheart no more. Not since my nephews dared me to hop on the Detonator at Thorpe Park a few years back and I nearly lost my lunch. Risk aversion comes with age, I suppose. These days, the rickety rackety rides seem way too Heath Robinson for my liking. For me there’s little fun left at the fair. Still, the tattooed oiks still manage to get my loins stirring.