Norfolk has a certain fairground attraction

PUBLISHED: 11:55 31 August 2019 | UPDATED: 15:17 31 August 2019

A postcard from 1910 showing a helter skelter at Great Yarmouth

A postcard from 1910 showing a helter skelter at Great Yarmouth


The recent helter-skelter in Norwich Cathedral was a painful trip down memory lane for Keith Skipper

It's been a vintage August for trying to avoid nasty splinters as you slide down the bannister of life.

Perhaps that rather frantic push towards end of school holidays and last of the summer whines tested patience and tolerance levels a bit more than usual. Mixed weather may have clouded the sunniest of dispositions.

It can't all be blamed on Brexit, Trump, video assistant referees, ever-increasing traffic congestion and grisly plans to obliterate even more swathes of wonderful Norfolk countryside.

I followed the helter-skelter journey in Norwich Cathedral with amused interest despite nursing a long-held grudge against such contraptions. It goes back to an embarrassing climbdown on Great Yarmouth seafront during a Sunday school outing in the 1950s.

Goaded into a brave march to the top by well-rehearsed cries of "scaredy-cat!", I made the mistake of peering down on a crowded beach of human ants merely to confirm worrying suspicions about me and dizzy heights.

Clutching twisting rails and my unused mat, I lurched like a drunken spinning top back to the bottom and tearfully told the man in charge I wanted to go home. He returned my thrippence with a sympathetic smile and suggested hoop-la might be safer option.

This chastening experience taught me not to get on too many high horses in adult life but to save genuine passion and concern for truly important matters arising. Roles as press reporter, local wireless broadcaster and roving mardler have provided ample chances to avoid pontificating just for the sake of it.

Of course, there's nothing amiss in using hot topics, significant or otherwise, to introduce a dollop of harmless levity into what some folk seem determined to turn into a United Nations or General Synod debate. Take the helter-skelter ups and downs.

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I confided in several over-animated complainers that this was merely the start. The Tower of Babel had been pencilled in for November. (Look it up in Genesis, Chapter 11). Noah's Ark could sail in at the start of 2020 to provoke worthwhile climate change sermon material on dangers of rising sea levels.

Couple of other good texts spring to mind. Always plan ahead - it wasn't raining when Noah started building - and salute the most astute financier in the Bible. Noah was floating his stock while everyone else went into liquidation.

With "love thy neighbour" to the fore, perhaps members of the congregation could enter the ark two by two, each pair made up of total strangers living in the same street. Perfect chance to exchange greetings and talk about the weather.

I don't recall many diversions from routine attendance and solemnity during my schoolboy diet of three compulsory courses on upright living every Sunday plus a Tuesday night snack to stave off any danger of hunger pangs.

Our village chapel climate was slightly more relaxed for the harvest festival, steeped in homegrown flowers, fruit and vegetables, and Sunday school anniversary when grown-ups finally sat and listened to youngsters with their heart-tugging recitations and solos.

For my sins, I nursed fervent hopes the old Tortoise stove would really play up in winter if the wind was in the right direction. One or two incidents of billowing smoke threatening to bring proceedings to a spluttering end - but those old Methodist preachers, along with most listeners, were more interested in avoiding full-scale fire and brimstone.

Despite meagre rations of chuckles, I did manage to let my imagination transcend way above pulpit level to get me through Sunday episodes of All Preachers Grate and Stall. I played the odd innings at Lord's and dribbled beside Stanley Matthews at Wembley.

Transferring that sort of childhood chapel escapism from the 1950s to adult study amusement right now, I can't help but offer a few more ideas to bring a fairground flavour to the Norwich scene to set tongues wagging and heads shaking.

Let's test civic sensibilities with a coconut shy in the city council chamber and proposals for dodgems after dark along Prince of Wales Road. A Tunnel of Love over the Wensum must surely set hearts fluttering while slot machines on any number of streets could be employed to win lucky punters a parking space.

A roller-coaster for Carrow Road and a merry-go-round for the blessed NDR carry appeal. Perhaps we can send loop-the-loop and swing-boats to Rochester Cathedral, where they have a crazy golf attraction inside.

Hands up all who can't resist "Holy in one!"

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