Football, as we all know, is filthy rich – a huge multi-billion pound global business and a not altogether honest one, with bungs and bribes flying about like confetti. While the beautiful game is not my cup of char, there’s no denying the considerable passion it stirs. After a few difficult years in the shade, the Norwich City Football Team – known as the Canaries – have just been promoted to the English Premier League, the richest of them all, I’m told. The city threw a party to celebrate and thousands of devoted fans pitched up to cheer the team on as the boys in yellow and green paraded through the streets in an open-top bus. It was impossible not to be swept along by the enthusiasm, lighting up a very dull day. The boost to the club’s coffers – not to mention the players’ wages – and the local economy as a whole should be substantial. Well done, lads.
You’ve got to hand it to former Labour Party heavyweight, Ed Balls. After losing his seat to the Tories at the last general election, he’s been busy re-inventing himself in the most unexpected ways. Ed became something of a comic sensation on Strictly Come Dancing this year. His salsa to Gangnam Style is now legendary. The question of whether we were laughing with him or at him is a tad ungenerous. Balls had a ball and it was infectious. God knows, we could all do with a laugh right now. As a politician, he was rather dour, but Strictly had a definite humanising affect. There’s a lesson there somewhere.
Few people here realised Ed was a local boy until he became the Chairman of Norwich Football Club. ‘The Canaries’ are something of an obsession in this town, a devotion little rewarded on the pitch recently. Naturally, the newly-improved Balls was asked to switch on this year’s Christmas lights in front of the Art Déco finery of City Hall, and naturally, he couldn’t resist a salsa reprise with Santa. We also had the obligatory reverend wheeled out to remind us all that Christmas without Christ was just Marks and Spencer. As Norwich is one of the least religious cities in the land, I’m afraid the sermon flew over the heads of the kirk, literally as well as spiritually. Still, like many others, we’ll be hitting M&S for all our festive fancies.
When Ed pushed the button, we got something quite unexpected. My own snaps of the extravaganza turned out to be mostly rubbish, as usual. But I do like the one that makes it look like someone succeeded in doing what the Luftwaffe conspicuously failed to do.
I’ll leave it to the BBC to show you properly. (click below)…
Throughout the Middle Ages, Norwich was England’s largest city outside London and, until the eighteenth century, vied with Bristol to be the Sceptered Isle’s second metropolis. The original source of the city’s wealth was the wool trade (England’s principle foreign exchange earner in those far flung days). As the industrial revolution swept through other parts of the country, Norwich slipped down the civic rankings. The city was relatively untroubled by industrialisation and avoided most of the urban blight that followed it. Much of what did exist was flattened by the Luftwaffe in 1942. The blanket bombing was a bit of threadbare affair as the Jerrys missed both the enormous city hall and Jeremiah Colman’s mustard mill. Despite the bulldozing frenzy of the 60s and 70s that disfigured too many British towns, Norwich has managed to preserve much of its charming medieval legacy.
Apparently, Jeremiah Colman was one of those rare Victorian philanthropists who were good to their workers. This goes to prove that you can get filthy rich without screwing the poor. Until recently, Colman’s was the main sponsor of Norwich City Football Club. This crown has now passed to Delia Smith, Blighty’s most famous no-nonsense cook and obsessive football fan. However, St Delia (as she’s known in the pie trade) is not a local lass. Norwich’s most famous daughter is Edith Cavell. Nurse Cavell was shot for treason by the dastardly Germans in the Great War because she helped smuggle British prisoners of war out of occupied Belgium. It caused an international outcry at the time and badly damaged Imperial Germany’s image. Well, it just wasn’t cricket and not nearly as funny as ‘Allo, ‘Allo.
Like anywhere, I’m sure it has its problems but Norwich today is a sparkling hilly liberal jewel within a flat sea of true blue conservatism. The council is Labour-controlled and the city returns two members to Parliament. The current incumbents – Simon Wright (Liberal Democrats) and Chloe Smith (Tory) both have progressive social views, including a healthy understanding of LGBT issues. Right on Norwich, here we are.
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