By MICHAEL BLACKBURN.
AFTER OVER A year of restrictions inspired by the virus panic it looks like some form of normality is due to return here in Blighty. A mutant strain of normality it may be but here in the Blackburn household it’s enough to get us concentrating on the most important question — will we be able to have a holiday in Norfolk this summer?
The coronapanic contributed to the cancellation of our planned jaunt last year and though things seem to be improving now, it has exacerbated another, already growing problem, namely the annexation of north Norfolk by the metropolitan middle classes. We noticed the signs a decade ago.
Where once Wells-next-the-Sea, our favourite spot, used to have a rather down-to earth and unpretentious atmosphere, it was beginning to feel more like Aldeburgh in Suffolk — ie, less common and more chicly artisan. Pubs and shop owners had started putting bowls of water outside their establishments for the increasing number of dogs brought by their owners. This had rarely happened before, not least because your average Wells tourist would not have dreamed of bringing their bonzo on holiday with them. And people were turning up with more than one hound — and frequently of different breeds. Absolutely unheard of behaviour!
Second major indicator, the offspring. Names like Gabriel and Tiberius, Melissa and Perdita. The type of name you’d expect from the pages of The Times, The Telegraph and even the Guardian. And at that time they were all driving brand-new Mercedes. There was a glut of gleaming Mercs everywhere — there must have been some promotional deal the company had launched.
It’s not that I dislike these people (or their dogs), it’s just that I get the sensation they don’t like people like us. I’d prefer it if they stuck to the slopes of Chamonix or the beaches of the south of France. That way, the prices here wouldn’t go up so much, places would be easier to rent and it would be possible to park somewhere in Wells after twelve noon.
The scribblers in the weekend supplements have been making things worse by featuring the area in their staycation articles, swooning over beach huts and Holkham sands. This has gone stratospheric since the covid panic put Chamonix and Klosters out of bounds. My wife also thinks the settling of the Cambridges a decade ago in Anmer Hall near Kings Lynn sparked the whole thing off. She may be right. Norfolk’s within easy reach of the Great Wen and its environs, unlike, say, Lincolnshire, which also has great beaches and fabulous countryside. Fortunately, or otherwise, getting there requires a knowledge of British geography — which most London types do not have — and determination. That’s enough to put them off.
All of this may be irrelevant, however, if Boris Johnson and his cronies decide they don’t like the idea of letting us have our lives back after all. They’re given a date for the reopening of Britain but their officious little “roadmap” leaves plenty of scope for them to keep their boots on our compliant necks just to remind us who’s boss. When the time comes, they will not be automatically scrapping the rule on face masks, for instance, but “reviewing” it. Ominous phrase, properly interpreted as “we’re going to come up with spurious excuses to keep it going.” Or am I just being cynical?
That’s a rhetorical question, quite clearly. I am very happy to add to the cynicism and prove, if it’s not already obvious, that the milk of human kindness has utterly dried up in my soul and that I care not a fig for the rest of the world. The Arab-Israeli conflict is flaring yet again, the new President of the USA is blundering around in embarrassing senescence and Australia aims to keep itself shut off from the world till 2022, but do I care one iota? No. And by the time we get to Norfolk, some other international idiocies will be in play and I won’t give a damn then, either. I”ll be more concerned about getting booked into a series of fine eating places of an evening and hoping the sun shines enough for us to sit on a beach each day or take a leisurely stroll around some country gardens. Dog bowls and Perditas nothwithstanding.
Currente Calamo columnist, poet and writer Michael Blackburn lives in Lincolnshire. A Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Lincoln University (2005 – 2008), his poetry has appeared in numerous publications and anthologies over the years, including Being Alive (Bloodaxe) and Something Happens, Sometimes Here (Five Leaves Press). His most recent book is Albion Days (perennisperegrinator press). Sucks to Your Revolution is a collection of his Fortnightly columns.