'Other UK cities can't hold a candle to Norwich' - An Aussie's final impressions of Norfolk
PUBLISHED: 19:00 30 March 2016 | UPDATED: 09:15 31 March 2016
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If you've read either of my previous two columns about my time in Norfolk then you'll know that my relationship with your little part of the world has had its ups and downs.
We definitely started off on the wrong foot, with me shivering in a taxi queue for 45 minutes having just completed more than 30 hours of travel beginning in Melbourne, visiting Sydney, Dubai and London and finally stopping in Norwich.
When I stepped off the train on January 2, I made my way past a group of Southampton supporters on their way home. Their remarks of, “I don’t know why you’d get off here, Norwich is a hole” didn’t fill me with a lot of confidence.
I must admit that having been in Norfolk less than an hour, I would’ve been content to go home. But, being ever the laid back and tolerant Australian, I toughed it out.
Slowly Norfolk and I worked out our differences, overcoming issues such as Argos, the weather, excessive train fares and your obsession with roundabouts which threatened to drive a wedge between us. I looked past some of the weirdest and most ironic things in Norfolk – solar power farms and claims of ‘mild’ weather – and together we came out the other side stronger. I quickly learnt about snow – something I’d never before seen – Carrow Road and Lord Nelson, and not long after that sparks were beginning to fly. However, my feelings weren’t always reciprocated. For the first two-and-a-half months of my stay in the UK I watched Norwich City take just two points from 11 league games.
I even stood at the Barclay End for the clash against Chelsea in an attempt to end this curse, only to watch Diego Costa cheat the home side out of a point. Feeling largely responsible for much of the disappointment that filled the streets of Norwich and much of the EDP newsroom, City’s 1-0 win over West Brom brought almost as much relief to me as it did to Canaries supporters. I’ll be keeping a close eye on the Canaries from back home and hope they can stay up in the big time.
One thing I’ve found difficult when talking to my friends and family back home, is drawing a comparison between Norwich and an equivalent Australian city. Having spent the past three months living close to the city centre, getting to know and enjoying the city’s hidden gems has been one of my favourite past times.
I visited the Plantation Garden last week which was beautiful, while the cafes and restaurants throughout the lanes remind me a lot of Melbourne, an enormous compliment considering it’s the world’s most liveable city. It too blends some great history with a terrific modern vibe and a big sporting culture.
Having ventured to other towns and cities including Cambridge, Hartlepool and Durham during my time in the UK, it quickly became clear they weren’t fit to hold a candle to Norwich.
There’s just something special about it, particularly walking through the markets and city centre on a rare day of sunshine.
I got told early on in my stay that Norwich was a ‘fine’ city. I didn’t know how to take that initially, because from my personal experience telling my girlfriend that she looks ‘fine’ doesn’t tend to go down all that well. However, it didn’t take me long to understand.
Having also visited the surrounding towns of Dereham, Diss, Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft, it’s clear that statement extends throughout the county.
I came to the UK with no idea what to expect and having hated England since I started watching cricket as a two-year-old, I wasn’t too excited about what I’d find.
Despite getting off on the wrong foot I was quickly impressed and know this farewell won’t be forever.
As Bill Bryson, an American who moved to England and authored the book Notes From a Small Island, said: “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I like it here.”
•Joshua Hanrahan is an Australian journalist on placement at the EDP. The views above are those of Mr Hanrahan.