Christmas is a-Coming

Christmas is a-Coming

I know it’s a-coming because the Christmas lights went on in Norwich last week, enthusiastically witnessed by thousands of over-wrought kids and their anxious carers. Pushy pushchairs and strident strollers took back the streets and our ankles became collateral damage. The good burghers of Norwich fired up City Hall with a row of giant exploding fountains, and rockets flew from the roof of Jarrolds, the well-groomed department store for the well-heeled. Here’s a taste…

Chapelfield Shopping Centre has also unveiled its glitzy seasonal offering, even turning the word ‘christmas’ into a verb  – punters are ‘christmassing’ all over the shop. The meaning isn’t entirely clear but I’m guessing it’s about people spending money they don’t have on things people don’t need. It was ever thus. They’ve replaced the enormous melodic Christmas tree of yesteryear with something more modest. It’s chic but silent.

I rather miss the camper, older model belting out Yuletide tunes every thirty minutes though I’m guessing that sentiment wouldn’t be shared by the staff and patrons of the adjacent restaurants who’d have to put up with the racket.

After the fun came the fare. We squeezed through the crowd to grab some hot Spanish sausage. Exotic street food has really taken off round these parts and I’ve always been partial to a generous slice of Iberian spice. The chorizo ciabatta griddled with red piquillo peppers was divine. We finished off the evening in a local hostelry, the newly tarted-up Lamb Inn – no prams the size of a small hatchback, no tantrum-ing kids, no over-fussing parents. My kind of advent.

Bottoms up!

The Norwich Book of Records

The Norwich Book of Records

Norwich is stuffed with the biggest, finest, oldest and firsts in all the realm. There’s a gem on virtually every corner. These are a few of my favourites. Hover over the image for a brief hint and click for more scintillating facts that you never knew you wanted to know.

With thanks to Visit Norwich for much of this treasure trove.

Itchy Feet

In the summer of 2012, we parachuted into Norwich on a wing and a prayer. We hadn’t the slightest inkling whether this golden-oldie city of medieval steeples would suit us or not. It was a difficult ask: somewhere we could replant our off-peak life but avoid the workhouse and somewhere within a bearable commute of London so we could keep tabs on our folks.

When we first paddled up the Wensum, we somehow ended up living in a Grade II listed Seventeenth Century brick and flint weaver’s cottage. The place had been through the wars and oozed history. By the Nineteenth Century, weaving had gone the way of the dodo and the cottage was reincarnated as a public house. In the Thirties, the Great Depression depressed ale sales along with everything else and time was called on the Devil’s brew. After that, the building gradually fell into miserable dereliction, boarded up and unloved. The final insult came when the building was gutted by fire; demolition seemed likely. Cue the city elders who stepped in with their compulsory purchase powers, repaired the structure, modernised the fabric and flogged it off. In 1986 the Weaver’s Cottage was reborn as two comfortable maisonettes with all mod-cons. The partially charred beams above our marital bed are the one remaining sign of that near-death experience.

A year and a bit on, those itchy feet are back but this time we’re moving across town, not continents. We’re rather taken with Norwich and have decided to put down roots by buying a small piece of it (while we can still afford to). So it’s goodbye to our pretty weaver’s cottage with its olde worlde beams, toffee-coloured fireplace and drafty halls and hello to our handsome warehouse conversion just beyond the old city walls with big picture windows, views across the burbs and proper insulation. We’re expecting our bills to plummet. Otherwise, that workhouse beckons.

Putting Me Out of My Misery

Putting Me Out of My Misery

Recycling1I’ve had jolly good fun sparring with Norwich City Council about the farcical recycling service we’ve endured. This is the very same council that was the “winner of the gold award for ‘delivering through efficiency’ in the public sector Improvement and Efficiency Awards 2013,” and was “highly commended in the ‘most improved council’ category of the Local Government Chronicle Awards 2013.” Blimey. How bad were the also rans?

The volley of emails make for an amusing read which I thought I’d share.

Me

I rang your call centre on Friday 3rd to inform you that, once again, my recycling had not been collected. Your agent told me it would be collected today. It wasn’t. This is now the fourth time the blue recycling bin and glass box (that I share with my neighbour) have been missed. The refuse collectors simply walk past them as if they weren’t there. Really, I have better things to do than spend my money ringing the council and my energies wheeling the bin up and down the pathway to and from my flat. Exactly what am I paying my council tax for? What do I have to do to get your contractors to do their job?

Them

Your property is currently not down as a recycling collection, you currently received a weekly black sack collection. To change this we will need to put you on an alternate weekly collection, meaning one week will be general household waste and the next your recycling with a weekly food collection. Do you have room for wheelie bins?

Me

I would be grateful if you actually took the time to read my message. Obviously, I already have a blue recycling wheelie bin and a green glass box which were here when I moved into the property last June. I share them with my neighbour on the ground floor of XX St Georges Street. I have never used a black sack collection service. I faithfully wheel our bin out each fortnight on the designated day. Sometimes it’s emptied. Sometimes it’s not. If by putting the property on some internal council recycling list means that my large bright blue wheelie bin is no longer invisible to the eye of the bin men who pass by then please add this property to that list.

Them

As the crews use pda’s to tick off each property when a bin is collected, your address needs to be on the system for a recycling collection, that way they will know to collect it or we will know if it’s been missed. I will change your property to an alternate weekly collection and send a calendar to yours and your neighbour’s address.

Me

I’m fed up contacting the Council to get my recycling collected. It was missed again last Friday (24th May). I rang (again) and was told by XXX that someone would call me back. Of course they didn’t. This has been going on for nearly a year. When will my recycling bins be emptied?

Them

There are a number of properties on your road changing over this week to alternate weekly collections, this means one week your household waste and the next recycling, I did send a letter to your address last week explaining this and giving you a calendar for collection days. Was this received?

Me

No, I have not received a letter from you. The last letter I received from the council was a couple of months ago advising me that our collection day was moving from Tuesday to Friday (alternate recycling/general waste). The manager of the council call centre rang me yesterday to tell me that I’m now on the ‘list’ for recycling and it would be collected alternate Tuesdays. XXXX rang me today to ask if my complaint had been dealt with. Who knows? Frankly, I’m still none the wiser. Is it Tuesday or Friday for recycling, general refuse or both? Perhaps you could put me out of my misery.

Them

I apologise for all the different points of contact, I will confirm your days in writing and supply you with a calendar tomorrow. I will also hand deliver to make sure you get it.

This was the first apology I’d received. Did I get the promised hand-delivered note? Actually, I did.

Post Script: Alas, despite my best hopes and my faithful compliance with the glossy collection schedule I received, my general waste was left rotting by the wayside.  It’s enough to make a vigilante of an honest citizen.

A Number on a List

A Number on a List

Recycle for NorwichWhat does this bog blue box on wheels look like to you? There’s a small clue stamped on the side. Yep, looks like a recycling wheelie bin to me too. So why is that the butch bin men of Norwich City Council (or refuse disposal executives or whatever fancy names they give themselves these days) walk past it as if it were invisible? Several fruitless calls to the over-imposing art décor city hall (the huge building that can be seen for miles and which the Luftwaffe failed to hit during a bombing raid) have not established why the vibrant blue box I share with our fabulous neighbour seems to merge inconspicuously into the brown-red brick backdrop at the very moment the bins around us get emptied. Apparently I’m not on their list and so I don’t exist. So put me on your list, I said. Right away, they said. Must have slipped their minds. I’m waiting for a call back from a very important supervisor-type person. Still no joy. That must have slipped their minds too. Exhausting work, this bean-counting business. I know, I used to be one of them. Over to UB40 who famously sang in 1981 (during the last great depression):

On in Ten

P.S. I know the green glass box (also invisible on collection day), does make it look like we’re a couple of old lushes but I would say in our defence that it’s two weeks worth of empties and our neighbour also has a wee dram from time to time.

On the subject of recycling, you might also like And Then There Were Three.