Closer to home

 

 

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I booked this short break on the Suffolk coast in an effort to get my R&R closer to home. For my last few holidays I have spent the best part of a day driving somewhere beautiful beside the seaside, but then I remembered that I wasn’t that far away from some stunning areas of coastline right here.

Following that logic, I could have stayed home and had my holiday in a series of day trips; it took less than an hour to get to Southwold, driving slowly. But staying home meant nothing being different, and I needed a change in order to make things happen. I wanted to have no excuses: to make myself get out and about, tramping the footpaths and coming home to write, maybe even getting the pencils and paint out to capture a scenic view. I’ve walked enough that my feet hurt, although hardly long distance. I’ve breathed in the fresh air and listened to the mournful calls of wading birds on the marshes. I’ve done the things I had in my imagination, and do feel in a different mental space, which is the basic requirement of a holiday I guess.

I didn’t have a great start.  My first day filled me with sadness and a small sense of dread about my future. I was early for getting access to the flat I had booked, so I walked along the High Street to a little tea shop to get a bite for lunch. It was cute looking (if a bit dark) in an Olde Worlde sort of way, with a sweet shop at the front. There was a moment when I walked into the second room where I could have turned on my heel and walked out. For the life of me, I can’t explain why I didn’t. Maybe I thought that first impressions could be wrong. Anyway, I sat down and ordered my soup of the day. The only other people in this café were three ladies of a certain age, with their short grey hair, sensible shoes and coats and a slightly shrivelled look about them, each at a different table. It suddenly struck me that I made it a fourth. They were all having a proper meal, and all I could hear was the scraping of knives as they ate. On the windowsill to my right, there was a collection of badly knitted bobble hats and baby matinee jackets for sale, all in pastel colours. I felt as though I was in a care home. The décor didn’t help – it looked as though nothing had changed since the 1950’s, and I wondered if the same clientele came here daily for their sustenance. How do old ladies eat so much? They each progressed through a substantial main course on to the pudding, while I scoffed my soup and roll and made my escape. By then a middle aged couple and a young family had taken another two tables, although the deathly hush seemed to continue. I wandered along the high street and discovered other coffee bars and cafés that looked so much more inviting, and I wondered why I had been fool enough to stay in what felt like the time warp from hell.

I do think Southwold is a really odd place. So many rich people live here. Why? Some of the houses are lovely, so perhaps it is just the availability of a des res and the comfort of neighbours with money. I’m not sure I understand the attractions though. It seems lacking in life – by that I suppose I mean young life. Sure, people bring their children for the beach in the summer, but I’m talking about youth and creativity. It doesn’t feel the slightest bit dynamic.  It’s disappointing that so many houses are clearly second homes or holiday lets and the shops are full of what I would call temporary treats and tat. I know that it is mean to be so critical of what is essentially a beautiful place, but it just doesn’t feel real.  All the same, I have to say thanks for all the free parking (although I’m guessing they can afford it).

        the market  south green

        the pier  back to ferry road

        sun on river  boats on ferry road

        path through the gorse  the crossroads

 

I’ve had a lazy, undemanding time, with no access to the internet. I’ve had reasonable weather and gone for walks, and driven down to other places along the Suffolk coast – Aldeburgh and Woodbridge.  I have frequently thought about moving as I get closer to retirement, and I thought it might be somewhere by the sea. I’ve tried to imagine myself living in these seaside places  – and realised that they are just another place to be, with a view, and I can take my choice of them by staying exactly where I am.

 

        alde estuary         path through the warren

        out of the warren on to the marsh         arriing at snape maltings  aldeburgh beach

I realise how lucky I am to be in Norwich.  I am slap bang in the middle of the county, an easy distance from the beautiful north coast resorts of Wells and Holkham, Blakeney and Cromer, the lovely east coast at Winterton, and a trip down to the Suffolk coast whenever I want.  So because the weather was lovely, I did another quick trip to Winterton.  I was worried that the beach café would have fallen into the sea during the winter storms, but it is still there – there is some obvious damage to the beach levels, but everything was gorgeous as usual. We are truly blessed to have this little piece of heaven virtually on our doorstep.

 

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Nature to the rescue

I haven’t blogged for a while – I haven’t felt any inspiration and have had periodic bouts of feeling blue for no apparent reason.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not depressed as such, just a bit flat and grey.  Was that the weather perhaps?  All those weeks of endless rain and grey skies meant I didn’t even feel like going out for a walk, and I do know that a bit of Outdoors once a day is essential nourishment. Pounding my local pavements is what I often do for exercise, and I do have a habit of just mooching into town because I live so close, but it really doesn’t hit the same spot as the wild and green stuff. 

Now that Spring is officially here, I ‘m hoping I can get out more and let the charms of nature feed my soul and revive me.  I don’t really want to drive for miles to get access to the wonderful Norfolk countryside or beaches (much as I love both) because it’s not a very green thing to do, polluting the atmosphere for my bit of pleasure, so I’ve been looking at where I can walk closer to home.  Last weekend I got out my walking boots and discovered parts of Mousehold Heath I had never been to, and this weekend I went to Marston Marsh, which is between the suburb of Eaton and the Ipswich Road.  It’s a little wildlife reserve popular with dog-walkers and not very big, but amazingly, I could not hear any traffic.  I must admit I was lucky with the weather, because the sun came out and smiled for me.  It always makes a difference.

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ImageI need places where the air is a living thing, full of interesting smells, I can hear the twittering and rustling of wild things, and preferably where I can sink my boots into lovely soft and yielding earth rather than tarmac.  This little reserve has a stony pathway and boardwalk all around the edge for those who want to avoid the mud, but also has plenty of other little routes that go criss-cross.  It was a good find.  Next week I’m in Southwold (for a short break), so hopefully I will find lots of nice places to walk along the coast. 

 

The Treasures of Magdalen Street

OK, I know this has been a long time coming – what can I say, I lost my blogging mojo for a while – but here is the long-promised post on the Magdalen Street area of Norwich.

There’s no use pretending.  Magdalen Street has a reputation of being down at heel, and it is true that you can find all the usual suspects of  discount and cheap shops (not even a Poundland, but a 99p store!) in and around the charmless Anglia Square, as well as that horrid little moneypit that is Spinners. But there is a certain spirit even to Anglia Square.  I’m assuming the ‘Welcome Home Alan’ sign was for Alan Partridge, as his UK premiere of Alpha Papa had not long taken place in the Square when these pictures were taken.

welcome home alan          anglia squarespinners moneypit                       odeon

But I prefer to look at Magdalen Street in the light of its incredible diversity, creativity and energy; it is an absolute treasure trove of goodies.  Keep reading, and I hope to enlighten you with this little taster, hopefully to encourage you to visit and try something different from what you find in Chapelfield and all those boring chain stores.  I started at the Wall, near the Artichoke, right at the end of Magdalen Street, although I’ve probably mixed a few things up.

wall lane

First off was a shop so new they literally had opened that day and so they had to tell me the name as there was no sign – E&J Euro – and they specialise in food from several European countries, including Latvia and Russia according to their sign.  The staff were very friendly and welcoming, and wanted to press various little sweeties on me, although don’t blame me if they are not still doing that 6 months later.

  romanian shop                                   sign outside romanian shop

A little further down the road is another small supermarket catering to Eastern European tastebuds, alongside a Turkish corner cafe, and several other foodie heavens all the way back to Fye Bridge Street.  And I can say from personal experience how helpful and welcoming they are, explaining different unusual foods if you ask.

Image   moonlight cafe and haider halal

euro foods             babylon marketasian bazaar               Ajman Miah and Spice Land

That has got to beat the Sainsbury’s experience:

unhealthy basket

There are some lovely cafes:

the street cafe  namaste india

The Dandy Horse is really interesting – unlike the trendy Bicycle Store on St Benedicts, this one actually does combine a bike repair shop with a lovely cafe (more seats upstairs).

dandy horse  inside dandy horse

upstairs dandy horse

One of the main reasons I go to Magdalen Street is to browse the junk shops – wow, what a wonderful selection, some of it over-priced but some of it cheap as chips and just brilliant for ideas.  I have to start with Looses – a flea market emporium that is always good for a rummage – and check out their fancy toilets!

looses emporium   inside looses emporium

looses loos

but try these too:

retreat vintage  beatniks  junk and gems

rspca, aladdins cave and beatniks      inside aladdins caveshrunken secondhandland  now-n-then  stalks  longs pledge centre

That last one is a pawn shop with the traditional three gold balls – calling itself a Pledge Centre, I guess it is just a prettier version of Cash Converters.

Also worth a browse are the incredible number of charity shops – Oxfam, RSPCA, Scope, Salvation Army, Barnardo’s, Pact, Daisy International, Store House, Sense etc.

There are also some actual proper shops selling new things like this clothes shop, which I liked a lot even though isn’t really catering for my age or pocket.

mod one

The other main reason I go to Magdalen Street is for the craftiness of it – the best fabric shop in Norwich, and lots of ideas:

anglian fashion fabrics  inside anglian fashion fabrics

sew creative              make place

It’s not really my thing, but I have to mention that there are several rather chi-chi little beauty, hair and nail bars.

beautique    carxel

one touchnail boudoir

The other random things you will find are some really pretty little courtyards, such as the Gothic House B&B which you  can see through the Kings Head courtyard, and Gurney House courtyard:

kings head and gothic house  gurney house courtyard

There is also Epic Studios in the old Anglia TV building, home to a second life for some old bands (Visage, anyone?) and occasional tribute bands and even wrestling events.  And even the local pubs have gone European.

epic studios  escape european bar

I have to digress into a mention for the architectural highlights not so far away – Fye Bridge is said to be the oldest river crossing in Norwich with records suggesting a bridge from 1153 onwards, although the bridge you see today dates from the 19th century.  This was also the site of a medieval ducking stool, used to punish women who were ‘scolds’ and also to test for witchcraft (if you drowned you were innocent – hmm, wonder what evil bastard thought that one up).  You have to go to Bishop’s Bridge the other side of the Cathedral to see the oldest bridge still standing – that was built in the 1340’s.  Also keep walking towards Tombland, and special mention can be made for the wonderful crooked house that is Augustine Steward House, seen here back through the Erpingham Gate that leads into the Cathedral Close.

fye bridge                   crooked house in tombland

When I first came to Norwich from London (about 30 years ago) I heard it criticised for being a little ‘middle class toy-town’ that was white and bland.  Well I think things have changed, but especially here in Magdalen Street, which is becoming the heart of multi-cultural Norwich.  It has always had its share of Indian restaurants, and some have lasted and lasted because they are so good (yes, Ali Tandoori, I’m talking about you).  But now there are lots of different nationalities living in Norwich, and many of them have found that Magdalen Street is a great place to start their own small businesses.  This means a fantastic range of food, and the freshest spices you can get. Good luck to them all.

Apologies for all the photos getting jumbled and being in odd places – not my fault, they didn’t look like that when I was editing, and I can’t seem to improve things!

Week 4

Last week’s cultural treasures included a visit to Dragon Hall, although I am sorry to say I missed the City Boats trip.

It’s a bit late but here’s a few of the pictures I took on my  guided tour (my picture on the right is from the same angle as the poster, taken round the back on the river side of the hall, and you can just about see the big arch that allowed carts to drive straight into the storehouse under the merchant’s hall upstairs):

Dragon Hall 1427

    courtyard and arch

Unfortunately over the years the grand hall had been sold, messed about with and re-used for a long time as several separate houses.  You can see here what it looked like in the 1930’s, when it was split into a butcher’s shop, a priest’s home, and a pub.

1930s version

For a long time no-one was aware of how important this building was – they only started to realise it when work was done on removing some of the more recent additions, and they saw how grand the roof beams were.  It was named ‘Dragon Hall’ quite recently, in honour of the little carved dragon you can see here (one of many that would have been part of the roof beams) and the importance of the image of the dragon in Norwich history.

                            roof beams   the dragon

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It took some major restoration to uncover what you can see today.  Take note that chimneys had been added over the years, and these have been taken out to restore the building to its former glory.  I don’t know if that is why the roof is so wibbly.  Most of the windows are later additions:

                               wibbly roof    corbel 2

Robert Toppes had actually built his grand merchant’s hall on top of an earlier building, and you can see that he intended for it to impress his visitors – the earlier small doorway you can see below was obviously not grand enough, so he had an even larger archway built around it.  He was incredibly successful as a merchant, and became one of the richest people in the county.  Typical of his time, he was also very religious, so vast sums of money were spent on his death so that prayers could be said for his soul, and he paid for a very splendid stained glass window which can be seen today in St Peter Mancroft.

                                    the double doorway   toppes window

Anyhow, that was last week.

This week I thought I would tackle one last tough subject (for me).  You might think this is trivial, but for me, it is huge.  I am spending the entire week doing housework with pleasure.  Well, ok, with an attitude that is as far removed from ‘sod it, life’s too short’ as I can muster.  It is seriously one of my least favourite things.  It’s not as though I live in squalor, but I can’t say I do it without being driven by necessity – thankfully, people come to stay with me now and then, so that is usually my driver.

I read an article recently that was about encouraging creativity in children, and it made the point that creativity generally creates mess, and that it is important to spend 15 minutes a day clearing up on account of ‘when we clear the physical space, we literally make room for clarity and inspiration’.  I also like the idea of doing these tasks ‘mindfully’ – this is a Buddhist concept I know, and I am not a Buddhist, but there is something to be said for paying attention to doing something willingly and well.  The hardest thing by far is getting started,

So I’m trying to do these things with a certain intensity and regularity.  I do love being in a clean, uncluttered environment.  Usually I just wish that someone would do it for me.  Doing it myself makes me feel incredibly virtuous.

The other good thing about housework is that it can be as energetic as you want it to be.  I really liked my week of physical exercise, and I have continued going out walking two or three times a week.  I really got into walking after dark – not something I would be able to do if I lived in the country, but here in the city it is great.  It makes me feel more alive.  And I go round all the posh bits of my local area and daydream about what it must be like to live in a house like that.  Seriously, there are some amazing houses here!

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That house on the left might be absolutely horrible inside, but don’t you just love the idea of having a house with a turret?  It would make me feel as though I was living in a fairy tale.  I haven’t yet dared to go up those side roads that are marked ‘private’, but I do plan to uncover ‘hidden Norwich’, so watch this space.

I think next week I will come down to earth, and write something on that wonderful but unappreciated street in Norwich – Magdalen Street.

Week 3

This was the third week of a project to do something interesting with my spare time, and I decided that my theme this week would be ‘culture and the arts’ and wouldn’t you know it, but there were two really interesting events on this weekend – one was Mind’s Festival of Cultures at the Forum, and the other was an event to support protection for bees organised by Subud in the Cathedral Close.  Here’s a few pictures to give a flavour of the events.

       stall in forum          stalls in forum

This is my masala dosa being made to order by the lovely folk from Namaste:

         my masala dosa     stalls outside forum

This was a lovely African jewellery stall, with the small person responsible for the ‘Mini Embira’ line.

           african jewellery stall     mini embira maker

People were sitting on the steps waiting for the Salsa lesson to start.

waiting for salsa

I couldn’t help noticing a couple of Gorilla’s in the Forum – the big one is Chromezilla, but the little fella is called King Comm.  Geddit?

          king comm chromilla king comm back view

There were activities for children – I just caught the end of a Rangoli finger painting session.  I liked the chart Mind had created for social inclusion.

           finger painting social inclusion poster

Then I walked over to Cathedral Close and was able to visit the lovely gardens that Subud (a multi-faith organisation that I am afraid I know nothing about) has used/lived in for many years.  On the way I passed the talented ‘space eagle’ and also the very nice Pandora’s Kitchen – highly recommended, especially on a sunny day.

           pandora's kitchen  space eagle

This is the outside of the house in Cathedral Close where this garden party was taking place:

        beautiful buildings in close  subud for bees

It was a charming event, all for a good cause.  There was live music and circle dancing as well as stalls with various interesting projects and information about preserving our bees.

          circle dancing  circle dancing 2

foe pic 2

I start my weeks on Thursdays, so I have already been re-learning a few basic words of Japanese ready for my students who arrived today, and I watched a recorded Culture Show all about the Venice Biennale (is that cheating?  It was really interesting!) and I’m off on a guided tour of Dragon Hall and perhaps a City Boats river trip.  The rest of the week I have my hands full with helping two young Japanese girls feel at home, but I also want to get my drawing pencils out.  I absolutely love art, so I figure I should start participating rather than just collecting.

It was hard working out what I could do on a daily basis – I wanted to re-visit museums I hadn’t been to for ages or take part in events or go to exhibitions – but most of what I found was only available during the week, during working hours.  There are quite a few things on, but things are organised around school holidays and kids needing to be entertained, rather than working people who can only do stuff in the evening.  I even considered going to Cinema City to see Billy Budd (which has been given a 5 star review) because I thought I should challenge myself to do something I wouldn’t normally do – I’ve never seen an opera and only know the most popular bits of the most popular ones; it’s all very well going along to things I know I like, but I wanted to learn and surprise myself.  But hey ho, it’s only on in the middle of the afternoon, on a working day.

I also began to question ‘what is culture’.   One definition said this is ‘the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively’ which is a bit of gobbledegook to me, so I prefer ‘characteristics of a particular group of people defined by everything from language, religion, cuisine, social habits, music and arts’ – just the way different people behave and express themselves I guess.  It’s interesting that people often think that culture is intellectual – or maybe what is more interesting is that the word ‘intellectual’ has been hi-jacked.  Apparently culture is passed on by learning, and genetics by heredity, and both make a difference to how we turn out and how we decide to live our lives.

Sunday Scribble No.3

At the Doctors

Kim saw the girl walk in, chewing gum, looking as though she hadn’t a care in the world, pushing her buggy laden down with shopping, baby squalling, toddler holding on to the buggy handles.  The kerfuffle of their entrance made everyone turn and look, some with a slightly disapproving air.  She wasn’t noticing any of that.  She looked breezy and untouched by anyone, never mind her own children.  She went up to the receptionist’s desk, lifted her gum from her tongue with wet fingers and offered it to her toddler.  “Here, you, look after this for me” she commanded.  The child put it in his own mouth, and started chewing it.

“I’ve got a 3.50 with the nurse” she said to the receptionist, “Kelly Sharp and kids”.  The receptionist ticked off her list, and told her to wait.

Kelly Sharp looked around the room, eyeing up the available seating and location of kid’s toys.  Kim suddenly noticed he was sitting right next to the storage box full of Duplo and other bright plastic bits.  He had a sinking feeling.  The toddler came and plonked himself virtually at his feet.

She smiled as she sat down next to him.  “Lovely day, innit?” she breathed, almost sighing.  Kim wasn’t sure how it could be.  But he said yes anyway.  He stole a sideways look at her.  She was staring at him quite directly.  “I’ve seen you before, you’re Kevin’s mate aren’t you?”

“Well, I do know a Kevin, but we’re not exactly…”

“Oh, I know, he’s a bit of a Wally, but he’s my boyfriend’s brother so I don’t have much choice, know what I mean?”

There was a brief lull while she poked her toddler’s arm and pointed at the baby, who had a big white sicky-looking dribble hanging from his mouth.  The toddler wiped it with his sleeve.

She turned towards Kim again, “She’s got a bit of a temperature” she said, jerking her head towards the baby, “thought I’d better do something to check it out, couldn’t get in with the doctor though, so they shoved us in with the nurse.  I bet there’s nothing wrong with her, all this bloody effort for nothing”.  Kim was surprised she thought it was an effort, she seemed to be so free of anything that could be described as effort; she wasn’t exactly calm, just supremely untouched, unconnected.

Her skin had a smoky sheen, pale and milky white.  It was so close-textured that it seemed to have no pores at all.  He wanted to touch it, not because he had any desire for her, but in the same way a child reaches out to touch something of unusual texture.  He tried to pay attention to what she was saying, as though it mattered.

“I was at that fair last night, have you been?  Saw the most blindin’ ride, I wanted to have a go but of course no money, so I says to him, go on, give us a few quid, but he’s so bloody mean, and anyway he spent it all on drink…” she rambled on.  She was fishing for the baby’s dummy all the time she spoke, while the infant cried.  Eventually she found it, jabbed it into her mouth like a plug into a sink, and looked up.  She seemed to expect he was going to participate in a conversation.  He wished he could stop the noise; see her in sleep or some unconscious state so that he could just look.

“Mr Kim Stanley!”  A voice called from further down the corridor.  It was his appointment, so he gave a half-wave to Kelly Sharp, and lumbered off towards the voice.

He sat and shuffled in his seat.  How is it possible to say things that are unspeakable?  You just get it out, quickly.  He looked up, as the doctor was doing her “what can I do for you?” routine, a kindly look on her face.  Kim lurched headlong into speech, feeling as though he had decided to take two steps of a downward staircase at a time, but gradually realising he was falling down the whole lot in a crumpled heap.  “The accident…you must have heard about it…the girl…I was there and she…she was so happy…and she was killed, right there, in front of me, it hit me, the blood…look…” He offered up his hand for inspection,  “I can’t wash it off, it won’t go, I don’t know what to do.”  He was breathing hard, and the doctor took hold of his shaking hands.  Her eyes looked shiny with compassion.

“Calm down, there, there, dear, it’s alright now”, she said, “you’ve had a nasty shock and it’s quite normal to feel like this.  I did hear about it, a real nasty one – and you saw it did you?  Dear me.  Did you know them?”

“No, I was just passing.  She was really lovely.  The sort that people turn round to watch, you know?  I saw her run towards this bloke, she was so happy, they both were, she jumped into his arms like she was really free, just got out of jail or something, she let go of herself completely.  He was twirling her round, and she leaned back like a child on a roundabout.  It just made me keep staring.  God, I wish I hadn’t…” His voice started to break.

“It’s OK, really, go on, you have a cry”, she soothed, putting the box of tissues closer to him on her desk.

“She didn’t know anything about it, that’s for sure”, he gathered himself together, sat upright and stared at the wall opposite with an unfocussed look.  “It’s slow-motion almost, now, I can see it all, and I can’t stop seeing it, all the time…”

“Just tell me what you see, it’ll really help if you can talk to someone.  Take your time, I’m here to help you, and we’ll take as long as you need…”

“They were hugging, and she turned her body, like this”, he demonstrated, shifting around in the chair and lifting his arms out, “and the motorbike just knocked her out into the road, straight out of this guy’s arms, he can’t believe it, but there’s nothing he can do…she went straight into the path of that car, and it decapitated her, I don’t even understand how that happened, even though I can see it, again and again.  Her head just went flying, I can see it flying through the air, she still had a smile on her face, the blood just gushed over me”, he held his hands out yet again as evidence, “and I got these marks that won’t come off, I never had them before, I know it looks stupid and I’m not mad, I’m not, I’m not…” His voice trailed off.  He looked down at his hands, started wringing them together, and then looked at them again.  “I don’t know what to do to make it go away, what can I do?”

The doctor reached for her prescription pad.  “I know you won’t like this, but I’m going to prescribe you some Prozac.  It’s not that I think there’s anything wrong with your mind, I don’t think you’re going crazy or anything, its just you’ve had a really big shock and it’s natural to feel bad about what you’ve seen.  After the shock wears off you’ll probably get a bit of depression, that sort of thing.  It will fade in time, believe me, but these will really help you to get through.”

“It’s my hands, doctor,” he said, confused.

“I know, I know, but really this will help with the hands.  You must know, if you think about it, that the blood isn’t really there, it’s just your way of saying you feel stained by what you saw, it touched you really deeply, so much that your skin felt connected to what happened.  Just think of it as your little helper so that you can let go of that.  Let me know how you get on, and make an appointment for next week so we have another chat.  OK?  If you still feel you need someone to talk to, I’ll arrange you an appointment with the counselling service.”  He felt himself being dismissed, eased out.

Kelly Sharp didn’t have the kind of skin that could connect with anything.  You couldn’t imagine her flesh raw, like his was.  He was thinking of her as he walked out through the automatic doorway, into the sunshine.  He took a minute to adjust to the brightness.  She was outside, there next to him, and he became slightly terrified at the prospect of having to speak with her again.

“You know, you looked like you could do with cheering up mate, so I thought I’d walk back with you.  Can’t be that bad, eh?”

“Oh, er, that’s kind, but I’m not walking,” he gestured to the car park.  He realised she would expect a lift if she thought he had a car, and explained “I’m on my bike”.  He was horrified at the idea of walking back through the estate with her.

He waited until she had given him a little wave from the corner, and disappeared from sight.  He got his helmet from the back carrier on his bike, switched on and revved the engine, then rode out.

Week 2 begins

Just so’s you know, I am definitely busy with Week 2, I have started on my physical stuff.  I thought I would end up cleaning the house in frantic style (very useful, much needed) but when I got home I looked around and thought ‘….nah’.  So then I thought ‘hey, let’s get that Wii fit thingy out that has been propped up beside the TV since Christmas; I can do a little bit while the potatoes boil, job done’.  But of course I’d forgotten how to access the damn thing through the telly, and by the time I had pressed every button on the remote twice (apart from one, obviously, but I didn’t realise it at the time) and had a look at the instruction book, the timer was beeping. So plan C was put into action – I put on my MBT’s and went for a 30 minute walk. Fantastic.  I took my phone (which by accident of saying yes to synchronising everything has all of my daughter’s old music downloads on it) and some little earphones.  So I walked with pounding beat from Idlewild, Jimmy Eat World, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Kings of Leon.  I was in the groove, just like being in the gym and jogging away on the treadmill to Eye of the Tiger only better.

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The trick is to set myself really low targets – I think I might just be able to do a 30 minute walk once a day for a week, because even when it’s really hard to stick to a routine because life gets in the way, I can be disciplined enough to see it through for such a short time.  And that’s kind of my goal – not to be an athlete, but to learn how not to give up.

The following week I think I might try doing something cultural every day – which will be helped by the fact that I have 2 Japanese students coming to stay.  But it will also be hard to stick to, since I’m working full-time.  Does going to see Alpha Papa count?

I will go back to my Sunday Scribbles, and I also plan to do a guide to the best second-hand and vintage shops, as well as more on the cafés, restaurants and sights of Norwich (with better photos hopefully!)

The fact is, there just isn’t enough time to do everything I want, but I have noticed the huge opportunity cost I’ve been squandering by watching TV – and I haven’t really missed it.