With the weather finally on the up and blossom dripping from the trees, the citizens of Norwich were out in their droves doing what the Brits do best – shop and sup. Purses and plastic were loosened in a brave attempt to drag the economy out of the abyss. Technically, the economy is as flat as a witch’s tit, rather than triple dipping and the patient needs all the TLC it can get. Market stalls toppled out onto the pavement, till queues weaved round Primark, the M&S food hall heaved with Norfolk broads and we couldn’t find a table in Pret a Manger when we bagged a baguette.
We escaped the madding crowd by browsing the floor show in the Forum. Modern art isn’t everyone’s cup of char but Liam loved it. I left him to peruse the exhibits and ordered a couple of drinks at the bar. Cheers!
We threw caution to the wind and have a gay old night in old Norwich Town. We are blessed with three bone fide out-and-proud gay bars and one club. Who’d have thought? The Castle Public House was our inn of choice, a popular haunt perched unglamorously on the corner of a ring-road roundabout just outside the city centre. We knew we’d arrived when we spotted their open top Big Gay Bus parked up outside. It’s used to frighten the farmers as it cruises the length and breadth of the county spreading the word. Not quite Priscilla, Queen of the Desert but you get the picture. The bar was a pleasant surprise. We were expecting tired, tatty and torn. We got camp, colourful and clean. The clientele was a manic mix of trendy young things, most of them squeezed into skinny jeans and Primark plimsolls. Metrosexual girls and boys mingled amiably, gossiping and giggling over the latest must-sup alcopop being flogged by the multi-nationals.
We popped across the pretty garden and crept into the glass-fronted club out the back. It was like stepping into a village hall on acid. We didn’t last long. The two old codgers quickly decided they were way too old for the thump, thump, thump and returned to the snug to finish their halves of mild. After a while observing the Norwich queens in their natural habitat, Liam suggested we leave the children to their play and stumble back home for a welcome cup of cocoa. As we strolled past the cathedral, Liam noticed that my ancient legs (the ones that had been given me so much gyp of late) were firing on all pistons. He was right. No pain whatsoever. Remarkable. Sightly sozzled and suspecting divine intervention, Liam looked up at the dreaming spire and spoke to his maker. “Praise the Lord!” he slurred. “It’s a miracle.” Indeed. He’ll be feeding the five thousand next.
We sought provisions in the Thursday pazar. Split into two, edibles and non-edibles, the market is a splendid melting pot of punters, peasants, spivs, hawkers and pick pockets. Bazaars are big business and the whole enterprise is a travelling circus with stall holders moving from town to town each day. The edible section is a pot pourri for the senses – great quality fresh fruit and veg, aromatic herbs and spices, exotic dairy produce, the odd chicken in a cage and the usual selection of Turkish delight. Prices are cheap.
The non-edible bit is less agreeable: stall after stall of tatty household and electrical goods without a kite mark between them, poor quality fake designer wear, overpriced linens and the hard sell carpet traders. We are pestered with ‘Hello Jimmy’ and ‘Cheaper than Primark.’ Of course, the answer to the latter proclamation is that nothing is cheaper than Primark.