I’m a sucker for an old dame, particularly those two old Dames Judi and Maggie. They light up my screen. My all-time fave is Tea with Mussolini, a regular winter warmer on a chilly night. But any film with them in will do. I’m not fussy.
A less well-known screen outing for the pair was Ladies in Lavender, a tender tale of two elderly sisters living quietly in a Cornish fishing village during the thirties who scoop up a handsome young Pole from the beach after he was swept overboard during a storm. They nurse him to health, causing a stir among the locals – and the stirring of long repressed feelings for sister Ursula, played by Judi. The whole thing is a joy to watch, a moral tale of a rescue without hesitation or fear of an economic migrant washed up on a foreign shore. Rather relevant today, don’t you think? And there’s a real Billy Elliot moment at the end that gets me every time. So, when the stage version of the film came to Norwich’s Maddermarket Theatre, we just had to see it (even though neither Dame was in it, obviously).
It was a sterling effort from the cast with the best lines reserved for the housekeeper and delivered with great comic timing. The performance got an enthusiastic hand at the end but I couldn’t help wondering if the message was lost on the mostly elderly audience with their curls, pearls and comfy lives. I hope I’m wrong.
After 20 months, we finally closed the door on the Weaver’s Cottage and left the old parish of Norwich-Over-The-Water. It was a sad parting but bricks and mortar are just that, even when they’re 370 years old and located in the oldest ward in town. In any case, we shall return. Our new gaff (my 18th home since I dropped) is less than a mile across the city on the other side of the water. We fully intend to re-visit our old haunts every now and then and wallow in the exuberance and pretentiousness of Norwich arty types (also known as a few pints on a warm summer’s evening at the Playhouse Theatre bar).
There’s something a little bit special about Norwich-Over-The-Water. It’s reckoned by those in the know to be the site of the original Saxon (or rather Anglish) settlement called Westwic. According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, wood-pannelled Westwic was torched in 1004 by the deliciously named Sweyn Forkbeard, King of the Danes. Clearly there was something rotten in the State of Denmark, to misquote the Bard. However, the doughty arsonist’s marauding hit the right spot and he later became the first Danish king of England and introduced flat-packed furniture to a world-wide audience. Okay, I made that last bit up.
Fast forward to medieval times and Norwich-Over-The-Water welcomed Huguenot, Walloon and Flemish refugees from the near continent, fleeing religious persecution from the dastardly French and Spanish. The immigrants became known as “The Strangers” and eventually made up a third of the city’s population. Apparently, the mighty flood of immigrants caused very little resentment at the time. Far from packing out the workhouses and stealing the jobs of the local farmhands, the highly skilled expats from the Low Countries bolstered trade with mainland Europe and helped make Norwich rich. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it, Nigel Farage and your UKIP xenophobic swivel-eyed loons.
So, I give you a little tour of Norwich-Over-The-Water from the comfort of your own sofa:
St Mary’s Coslany
St George’s Colegate
St Michael Coslany