Monday, 29 September 2008

The return of the geese, and the turnip apparently.

I know that several of you who are kind enough to follow my blogs hale from Norfolk but now live in other parts of the country, in fact in other parts of the world, so I am going to try and include something Norfolky in my musings.

Today it's the return of the geese. Where I live I am right under the flight path for the tens of thousands of geese that come here to overwinter on the muddy flats of the Wash, where they roost at night. So twice a day we hear the honking of them, look up and see huge skeins, small skeins, some with only a dozen or so geese, others with upwards of forty or fifty. To me, they are beautiful, I love to watch and listen and for as far as the eye can see - well mine anyway - are skein upon skein of geese. In the morning they fly over on their way inland to munch on the sugar beet tops and other delicacies in farmers fields, and in the evening, replete and ready for a kip, they fly back over. As soon as I hear them, I have to stop what I am doing to look out of the window, or stand in the back garden to watch and listen to them for as long as I can. Yet I seem to be the only one doing this. People walk by when the geese are flying overhead and don't even look up, aren't gobsmacked by the sight of so many birds at one time, not even when silhouted against a pinky gold sunset when it looks even more spectacular. I have lived here 20 years and for as long as the geese have been flying over, and for as long as they continue to do so, I shall stop and stand and stare and marvel, and wonder too, how many of them have been here before, and do they recognise houses, gardens from up there?

And turnips are making a comeback too, it seems. For some people, they have never gone away of course. So why this sudden interest in a rather unprepossessing looking vegetable? Well of course it's all to do with celebrity chefs using them and popularising them. All well and good, but there are those who say that this has caused the prices to increase quite a bit. 'Twas ever so.... But north of the Border of course, neeps and tatties is a national dish, so they might be surprised at the fuss being made of this common vegetable here. Personally I prefer swede, but a mixture of root vegetables plus a butternut squash, roasted and blitzed makes a tasty soup, left chunky with added sausages - and I'm talking GOOD QUALITY sausages here, not those pink plasticine-like things that pass for sausages in some supermarket chiller cabinets - it's a filling and economical meal for a family. Or just cooked in a hearty casserole topped with cheesy scone (cobbler) topping is a filling meal on a cold winter's day.

But it seems we are returning to the days of 'make do and mend' if media reports are to be believed. (Hmm, no comment!) People are having shoes mended instead of throwing them away and buying new, so new cobblers businesses are opening up. Clothes are being repaired by professionals, and more and more people are queuing up for an allotment to grow their own. All due to the credit crunch. Yet it was only a couple of weeks ago I read that people who repair household appliances like washing machines and freezers for example, have reported a downturn in business, many of them going out of business as a result, because these white goods are so low in price these days that it's often cheaper to throw one out when it goes wrong, than to buy new. So who do you believe?

The Norfolk accent is one of those, that when it's spoken by a true old boy of the county, can be really difficult to understand. If any of you heard of the Singing Postman several decades ago, you will know what I mean. But I much prefer to hear a dialect - preferably one I can understand! - than that everyone speaks in a bland, regionless tone. I was talking about language and nationality and being proud of where you come from with a friend recently, who had been worried that I mistake her for an American when in fact she is Canadian, and proud of it. I am British, but when asked always specify I come from Yorkshire, rather than saying I am from the North of England which covers a wide area. Most people can tell I come from 'somewhere in the North' as they vaguely put it, often waving an arm in the general direction of the north at the same time, but not which part. Even in Yorkshire, you get variations of language... those from the east riding speak with a totally different accent to those from the west riding, who again speak differently to someone from the south of the county. But all these accents and regional dialects should be kept alive, don't you think?

I am lucky living in a part of Norfolk that hasn't been affected by flooding, but over on the other side, the eastern seaboard side, there is talk about flooding deliberately, to flood an area of the Broads to help prevent coastal erosion. Great swathes of land will fall victim to what is called 'no active intervention' to prevent further coastal erosion. Many of you will already know that this is a serious problem along certain parts of the east coast of Norfolk, especially around the Happisburgh area. These new plans though could see the loss of six villages in the Broads area, loss of churches and whole communities and many people, including all those affected by this plan, are up in arms over this. Of course, the loss of villages, for one reason or another, goes back centuries.

Many villages in Norfolk alone have been lost or moved.... the village around Houghton Hall, or what passes for a village since it consists of a few houses only, was moved in the days when emparkment was common. This was when a landowner decided that a village in its current position was in his way, blocking or spoiling his view often, and so it would be moved, as with Houghton, or New Houghton as it was called when moved. Other villages have been deserted and abandoned when the land became too poor for people to work and make a living from it. Some villages, maybe consisting only of a few houses originally, moved and grew around newly created village greens many centuries ago now, and some were swept away to create military training areas in the Breckland area of the county.

And of course the sea is now the main predator of coastal villages. Between the 14th and 18th centuries many villages were lost to the sea as the cliffs were eroded, and this remains a worry to this day, when you would perhaps think we knew better, knew enough to try and prevent this happening in vulnerable areas like the east coast of Norfolk for example.

Well, these are the musings for today, coming out of a mind that is rather like a loft waiting to be converted...full of 'stuff' that isn't much use to anyone really.

8 comments:

ChrisH said...

I went to UEA so had lots of time to get tuned into the Norfolk accent but I'm willing to bet it's being eroded by Soapspeak. Bit like those lost villages on the fringes of the sea.

jaydublu said...

I can assure you that you're not the only one who stands and stares in awe at the geese - my wife and I make the most of every opportunity to enjoy the spectacle (and sound) as we walk the dog, or potter in the garden, or chat over the hedge to the neighbours.

I'm not a fan of turnips though.

And on your comments about repairing white goods - I think a part of the problem is that modern standards of 'cfc-free' and 'low energy' are making older appliances less ... green. But price is a big aspect - we had a pump go on an 18 month old fridge recently, and it was cheaper to buy a new fridge than to replace the pump.

R. Pete Free said...

'A ye got a light bor?'

There's more than one Norfolk accent - I always reckoned that my school friends from the coast (Cromer and Sheringham) had a different accent from inlanders (Wroxham broads) like me. Something to do with not opening the mouth too wide to let the cold wind off the sea in!

The haunting sound of goose wings beating across frosty broadland - one of the sounds of my childhood. Thank-you :-)

mountainear said...

Norfolk is a part of the country I've never been to - and now you are tempting me with tales of geese, the humble turnip and a predatory sea.

Get rummaging about in the attic. Tell us more.

UN PEU LOUFOQUE said...

we used to see them fly over in teh Charente heading to you I suppose and also to see them further en route when we lived in the UK! I adore the sight!

Lesley said...

I do certainly remember the Singing Postman. I love the Norfolk accent,though it's almost impossible for me to put it on these days, having been away since 1970. My brother has some bible stories 'translated' into Norfolk, and we crack up laughing when we read bits out to one another!
I don't have anyone left in Norfolk any more, and when I was in England in July, I was sad not to feel the pull to go there. It would have been far too sad.
I took my youngest two kids there in '96 and showed them the house my dad had built in Drayton, where I grew up, and my old school (NHS), and places that still mean a lot to me, like the common where my brother and I played,and even some of the old trees we used to climb.
It's a lifetime away ...

Quilting Cat said...

It was so lovely to hear proper Dorset accents at our Harvest Supper in the village last week, not heard so much now. Another great blog, loved the geese but hate turnips!

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