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Full steam ahead for all those summer plans

PUBLISHED: 18:59 28 June 2020 | UPDATED: 18:59 28 June 2020

Haunting beauty of Thornham Creek top of list for a back-to-nature campaign

Haunting beauty of Thornham Creek top of list for a back-to-nature campaign

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Restrictions are being eased just in time to try and squeeze in all that summer activity that’s been on the back burner, says Keith Skipper

It’s good to plan ahead, even in this current climate of deep apprehension.

I have a full list ready for the inevitable first question from an expectant local media at my 100th birthday party: “So, what did you really miss most during The Great Lockdown of 2020?”

Just in case I don’t make it, here’s taking advantage of a rapidly-expanding virtual world to ensure these thoughts are recorded via Skype, Zoom, Facechat, Mardlemore, Epiblog, Pensionpod or some other magical method I have yet to fully embrace.

They will be there for posterity as a pertinent reminder of the way Norfolk invention, humour and resilience set a global example of how to cope in unprecedented circumstances. Dewin’ diffrunt even while everyone’s in the same boat.

Of course, regular readers can keep this page and use it to wrap their own fish and chips for my ton-up celebration. (Salt, vinegar, crab paste and bread rolls provided).

I have cheated a bit and relied on my daily diary for what seemed mere trifles at the time during isolation. Like missing the chance to fulfil a long-crouching ambition to try limbo dancing. I just never got down to it. I would never have got up from it.

Or an unfulfilled urge to stop working out what everything cost in real money before decimalisation. As one bright woman mused on Aylsham Market when asked about the change on February 15, 1971, “They should have waited until all the old people died”.

I did give up counting the number of times Alexander Armstrong exclaimed “Wow!” in the latest edition of television’s amiable game show Pointless, or how often someone getting an item valued on the Antiques Roadshow vowed it would never leave their family despite that sudden £50,000 tag.

Social adventures have been seriously curtailed by cancellations of the Latitude Festival (seniors’ tea tent) and Cromer Carnival (falling asleep while counting floats). Heart-breaking news that Ibiza nightclubs won’t be open at all this year simply means there’ll be more time to ignore urgent jobs around the house.

I really missed a planned reunion with old newspaper colleagues for another Cromer helping of First of the Summer Chips in April. This tasty event brings together a collection of mature minds still sharp enough to appreciate self-mockery as part of an exercise in having a go at everyone and everything on the planet.

Hopes for First of the Winter Dips rest heavily on extremely mild weather throughout November and December. Plus a relaxation of social distancing rules between young lifeguards and veteran warriors of the waves. I may be forced to withdraw in any case if this cold on my chest persists.

Naturally, it’s been a constant source of deep disappointment to be kept away from countless favourite people and places for so long. I suspect some family member and close friends will have appreciated the break – although I can bring some fresh material to share when next we meet.

For example, I spotted over a dozen items beginning with B in our back garden during a half-hour nature watch the other morning. -- bird-table, blackbird, bluetit, bullfinch, butterfly, blossom, beetle, bishy-barney-bee, bumble-bee, bramble, blackberry bush, bulbs, branches, buttercup and bugs

Somehow, my wife forgot banana, biscuit, bun and bread-and-butter pudding when she capped my blissful reverie with a cup of tea. Could have been Brooke Bond.

We’ll be joining forces again for resumption of gentle safaris along our glorious coast and a few miles inland to see what Norfolk’s been up to during our enforced absence. Perhaps holiday traffic will remain well below average to nurse us back quietly into much-missed havens.

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Thornham Creek, an atmospheric showpiece between Brancaster and Hunstanton, easily wins top spot on our back-to-nature agenda. We called regularly when our sons were young enough to see and hear pirates marauding for Norfolk treasure. Ruminating parents return soon for reassurance this jewel is still glistening.

I wrote a poem about this haunting place 20 years ago for a book with photographer Sam Robbins called Farewell, My Bewty!, a last, lingering look at Norfolk in the 20th century. It pointed to many glories still on parade - while warning how many could be lost to a new millennium.

The Lost Harbour still offers 
a chance to drop anchor in a puddle of tranquillity. Just ask guardian seagulls for directions as they sweep the sky clean and tow your emotions.

Skip’s Aside: I interviewed thousands of interesting characters during a newspaper and radio career stretching back to 1962.

It’s difficult to draw up a short-list of favourite personalities for there are so many worthy of another nod of gratitude .Writers came up trumps most often, probably because I always made a point of reading their books beforehand.

I will stay quiet when it comes to the few who not only failed to live up to expectations but also mocked the sort of reputation that singled them out for special attention in the first place.

Suffice to hint that the worlds of sport, politics and showbusiness have always harboured leading members of the awkward squad.

Early days as a press reporter were dominated by retirement presentations, golden weddings and annual dinners. I soon realised dangers of imbibing too freely before taking down notes, especially when a couple insisted on handing round liberal supplies of home-made rhubarb wine.

Most supplies had been stored away just after the honeymoon to gather dust and potency for such a golden occasion. Even hardened photographers and battle-scarred senior reporters steered clear of lethal

potions until suitable

pictures and salient facts had been sorted.

A basic flaw in my shorthand technique - I failed to master the art despite years of grim application and a host of sympathetic mentors – meant I often had to put meaningful meat on the driest of bones.

At least shortcomings as a note-taker led to my developing a keen sense of listening and a commendable habit of checking carefully what I’d written down bore close resemblance to what had been said.

Most people were pleased, often flattered, that I took the bother to inquire. Some even grabbed the chance to make useful amendments before laws of libel came into play. I had more licence to thrill on becoming a full-time sports correspondent.

Football managers in particular had good reason to be grateful for strict editing of after-match quotes. Most of these were banal, biased or bewildering, lifeblood of the tabloid troops but unworthy of attention in a quality provincial newspaper.

At least one Norwich City boss suggested I should

have been more of an enthusiastic supporter and less of a critical reporter.


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