OPINION: Does Norfolk’s history now need to be rewritten?

Crab Wars way beyond the horizon as a Cromer boat is welcomed home

Crab Wars way beyond the horizon as a Cromer boat is welcomed home - Credit: Archant

Keith Skipper’s looking at Norfolk’s history and reveals the every day phrases he hates

It’s far too easy to get carried away by the Conspiracy Fairies.

They flitter, flutter and flagrantly fib in Fifty Acre Wood, located somewhere between Lilliput and Trumpton. There’s a plaque to confirm Winnie the Pooh never paid a visit.

I took a virtual tour to see and hear them flourishing along with Futility Sprites, Enigmatic Elves, Prankster Pixies and the odd Uninhibited Unicorn. That’s quite a ring to follow in any effort to find out what’s really going on now in the real world.

With accuracy, clarity, logic, honesty and general good-naturedness all but redundant in leading political, business and social circles, it’s hardly surprising so many below are content to make most of it up as they saunter along.

Now would seem the perfect time to rewrite a bit more history about global events since March, those last four divisive years in the USA, how we lost an empire but gained enough celebrity chefs to feed the world and built on everything except hopes for a decent planning system.

I’m convinced much of Norfolk’s past needs careful reassessment after discovering countless flaws in “official” versions of the Crab Wars between Cromer and Sheringham. Naturally, both sides claimed victory in this foamy local derby while bit-part players, East and West Runton plus Beeston Regis, still refuse to reveal where their loyalties finished up.

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I’m inclined towards an in-depth analysis from Chris Sugden and Sid Kipper in their 1999 book, Crab Wars, incorporating the comic-tragedy of young lovers Cromeo and Sheriet. Battles were fought out in the old-fashioned crab boats which, to be fair to the crabs, went sideways.

Other memorable characters destined for stardom in any serious history of Norfolk literature include Upspoke the Cabin Boy, Elsie Primrose, who was no better than she ought to be, and the Market Forces, a gang of persuasive young men who demanded much and supplied little.

Some coastal residents still maintain a proper peace agreement was never signed simply because keen rivalry between the two towns strongly appeals to old salts, naïve newcomers and holiday visitors who love a tasty yarn to go with their crab salad.

Earnest talk of passports required to visit one town from the other has yet to be silenced by efforts to forge a more harmonious relationship with popular events like the Crab and Lobster Festival

History, it is said, is mostly written by the victors. Never has this been more obvious than in the case of Boadicea, Queen of the Iceni and one of the first ”real” people to stand out in our proud Norfolk chronicles.

Yes, she remains a symbol of struggle for equality and freedom and did her bit to upset the Roman invaders. Even so, false and terrifying images of her have flowered so much over the centuries it is hard to know where fact fades into fable.

Greek writer Cassio Dio waxed: “She was of the largest size, most terrible in aspect, most savage of countenance and harsh voice, having a profusion of yellow hair which fell down to her hips and wearing a large golden collar”.

While she could get her dander up if roused, and didn’t flinch from a challenge, Boadicea was renowned for her good looks, smart appearance built on home-made garments and careful embellishment of woad, independent attitude and a keen entrepreneurial approach to protecting the environment.

The Romans happened to be on manoeuvres nearby on the day she tried out her prototype wheelie-bin with knives fixed to the side of her swiftest chariot to clear verges of too much hemlock along country lanes. The rest is distorted history.

Happily, the good queen continues to inspire dyed-in-the-wool Norfolk patriots and may well have been a driving force behind the Best-Crept Pillage Competition. Face-painting at village fetes certainly marks her colourful role in local history.

Research close to home suggests it was the Paston Lettuce that came to full fruition during the Wars of the Roses to show how vegetables and flowers have mixed happily in Norfolk allotments since the 15th century.

Time also to take fresh looks at the Rick-Burning Riots of Stratton Strawless (1831), Parson Woodforde’s Gluten-Free Gourmet Guide ( 1782), John Sell Cotman’s New Painting by Numbers (1805) and Thomas Browne’s Easy Guide to the Norfolke Dialecte (1656).

Norfolk can lead the way in avoiding Conspiracy Fairies and other dubious creatures. We’re not out of the wood just yet!

Skip’s Aside: Many of the things that niggle me most are tied up with sloppy verbal communications – and I will not accept big allowances must be made as our language “continues to evolve in an exciting manner”.

For example, I am tired of Norfolk natives pretending to come from London when they utter certain soap-opera banalities such as “Tell me abaht it!” and “That is well out of order, my son!”.

Clearly no better than newcomers and holidaymakers from the capital and

elsewhere trying to be hearty locals as they produce an exaggerated “Cor, blarst me, there go a bishy-barney bee!” on entering the village pub or shop.

The next person to trot out a cloyingly condescending “Bless!” after a straightforward bulletin about Walter’s bronchitis or Maisie’s operation deserves to be popped into a barrel of treacle. After it’ s been blessed.

Perhaps I can spare a gallon or two of salt water in which to submerge those who insist on being “really gutted” by some minor setback rather than truly dextrous Scottish fishergirls.

I am cheesed off with teashop cacklers who

squawk “Sweet enough!”

when turning down offers of sugar. I am fed up with signs outside establishments bearing the legend ”Dogs welcome with well-behaved owners”. Even the brightest dogs cannot read.

Tragic delusions of novelty, humour and trendy lingo plague our society, especially in pubs and clubs where “Hey, you guys!” appears to have become the sole way of addressing everyone present. I have even heard schoolteachers apply this “cool” epithet to mixed classes.

Only a matter of time, probably, before Mr Speaker employs something similar to call for order in the House of Commons. Broad Norfolk might go down a deal better with a heartfelt “Howld yar row, tergether!”.

I despair of folk who use their vehicles as travelling discos, their mobile phones as public announcement systems and their rubbish as street decoration. Examples galore of all three in the middle of Cromer during the holiday season.

Ah, I feel a lot better for that. Now, I’ll play the game and check on my own shortcomings. Tolerance levels can dip alarmingly when I venture out of the house to size up progress. I must consult the wife to see if she’s noticed any fresh blemishes indoors.

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