Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Pigs in Space, Stortford and South Pickenham

I just love pigs. Don't eat them, but I know if others didn't they wouldn't be there in the first place. Their ability to churn over a seemingly rock hard field of stubble, their inquisitive accelerated amble and their apparent enjoyment at Breckland external employment; all very charming. The periodical piglet passel are a delight, banded together like a oi-n-k of teenagers, with always the toughest one ready to have a face off with my dog, until Bertie runs the other way of course.
Pigs made the headlines on the main route down south today when their one way trip was interrupted, along with the travel plans of many on the M11, for around ten hours. A couple of pigs were dispatched on scene, because of injury, whilst the other 70 odd were humanely rounded up by the RSPCA before being, er, later dispatched further down in the Essex countryside.
On the lighter side, Miss Piggy stole the One Show before Christmas.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Seasonal slippery drivers

You have to see the funny side when Swaffham's Iceland won't do home deliveries to outlying villages, like the Pickenhams, because it's too, well, icy. Another store got a Christmas rapping from a caller to the Jeremy Vine show, lunchtimes on Radio 2, who complained that Asda had informed him, several days in advance, that his home Christmas dinner delivery could not be fulfilled. A ruined Christmas was forecast. Elderly, disabled or infirm and unable to visit a store as suggested by customer services? No, a driving instructor. Surely someone well qualified to venture out on this weeks slippery roads.

Hats off for holiday humbuggery has to go to the taxi driver who abandoned his fare between Barnham Broom and Norwich. The couple were left to walk for 90 minutes until an off duty driver from Swaffham picked them up and drove them home. The icing on this Christmas cake, the couple had pushed the errant hackney cab out of the snow before he drove into the night! Surely a candidate to be visited by his very own Jacob Marley.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Festive Fun

Don't tell the kids, but Santa has cancelled his visit by sleigh to Wymondham because it 's too slippery. You couldn't make it up.

The masters of goodwill warn of parking ticket dole out on Boxing Day in Norwich.

And finally, the man convicted of running over the head of his partner in a Land Rover lost his appeal against a murder sentence of 21 years. He believed the original judge should have barred evidence of his previous violent character, including torture allegations which led to a conviction for assault, as it may sway the verdict. Well, doh.

Happy Christmas to you all!

Monday, 21 December 2009

Visit Swaffham

Can't get to Swaffham because of the snow? Take a quick tour at this BBC site with 360 degree views around the Butter Cross, which may need 10 seconds in the microwave to make it spreadable.

Sunday, 20 December 2009


"I was walking in the park, admiring the old trees. Some of them were crooked. Some of them had scars, and lots and lots of wrinkles." 
"Why do we think that trees are so beautiful showing their age and what they went through & not the same with people? I just wondered." Yoko Ono Tweets 2009.
Like all the most interesting faces, trees are beautiful because they have a lived in, asymmetrical, natural appeal that any fake plastic tree can't satisfy. I am lucky enough to peruse this lovely example from my kitchen window on a daily basis.

© J Reed

Radiohead wrote a very beautiful anti surgery/natural beauty song called 'Fake Plastic Trees'. Three years previous, the anti establishment Rage Against The Machine released 'Killing in the Name' protesting, in a forceful and profane way, 'I Won't Do What You Tell Me'. With the power of instantaneous people power programs an independent social uprising overcame the marketing phenomena that is Simon Cowell, whose company is called SyCo, to beat X Factor Joe McElderry's rehash of Miley Cyrus's 'The Climb' to the Christmas No.1. The band has donated their profits to homeless charity Shelter. Usually I wouldn't care about the chart topper at Christmas but, like trees, I don't like my music squeaky clean, uniform and just a little bit fake.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Winter wonderland

Pickenham gained a new resident today, a stout fellow who has set up home on the outskirts on the way to Houghton on the Hill. Not sure if he'll stay long but he seems to fit in well with his surroundings. Today was one of life's rareties, perfection. A mix of fluffy snow, startling sunshine and breathless wind. I followed the deer around the field edges eventually wading through two foot drifts to the peaceful haven of St Mary's, just lovely.

The gritted sections of the roads towards the A47 were slushy and passable but why was Swaffham still in such a mess? It did take a couple of attempts to get back up my slightly inclined driveway, with the compressed snow now doubling as an ice hockey pitch, the roads will be tricky tomorrow.

All photos © J Reed

It's all very festive, as is the generosity of most of our neighbours in East Dereham. Some scrooge scallywags had felled the market place Christmas tree. Within the day well wishers have donated, planned and organised a replacement to be erected. Well done, truly the Christmas spirit (which probably had something to do with the evil deed in the first place).

Friday, 18 December 2009

Subscribe for email updates

Did you know you can subscibe to updates from web sites and blogs straight to your email address? Just register to a feeder by sending them your email address to sites like mine and others such as the trivia list site The List Universe, fascinating.

Lots of energy but nowt to make warming tea

So the big news from these parts was not snow but the causations of snow. Following the 'War of the Worlds' lightning during last nights snow fall, I decided to give the film another watch. The machines were just rising from the ground, dematerialising NYC residents as they went, when they zapped the power supply. We used to get outages quite often here in winter months but, after an upgrade to the overhead wires, I have become a little complacent and stocks of candles and spare batteries are no longer stocked. Went to bed, after watching Ronin on the laptop aside a toasty wood burner, but awoke in darkness until the sun rose. Crispy walk later, with camera and dog, the snow descended again before power restored around 3pm. Most of the turbines were still turning throughout.
Energy energy everywhere, but not a drop to make a warm drink.

© J Reed

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Reign takes the strain

Get used to them, can't resist a pun.
EDP reports on regal respite retreat route.
Sovereign says stop selling stolen snitch pap snaps.

No, not a close encounter of any kind

You can learn something everyday and sometimes it can be quite illuminating. UFO, spiked red wine or over exuberant Christmas lights? No, thundersnow. First for me and, like the dry and silent night time lightning I experienced over 20 years ago, perhaps the last. Did bring to mind the start of the Tom Cruise 'War of the Worlds', spooky.
Here's a YouTube from the states.

The Pedlar of Swaffham

In the old days when London Bridge was lined with shops from one end to the other, and salmon swam under the arches, there lived at Swaffham, in Norfolk, a poor pedlar. He'd much ado to make his living, trudging about with his pack at his back and his dog at his heels, and at the close of the day's labour was but too glad to sit down and sleep. Now it fell out that one night he dreamed a dream, and therein he saw the great bridge of London town, and it sounded in his ears that if he went there he should hear joyful news. He made little count of the dream, but on the following night it come back to him, and again on the third night.
Then he said within himself, "I must needs try the issue of it," and so he trudged up to London town. Long was the way and right glad was he when he stood on the great bridge and saw the tall houses on right hand and left, and had glimpses of the water running and the ships sailing by. All day long he paced to and fro, but he heard nothing that might yield him comfort. And again on the morrow he stood and he gazed—he paced afresh the length of London Bridge, but naught did he see and naught did he hear.
Now the third day being come as he still stood and gazed, a shopkeeper hard by spoke to him.
"Friend," said he, "I wonder much at your fruitless standing. Have you no wares to sell?"
"No, indeed," quoth the pedlar.
"And you do not beg for alms."
"Not so long as I can keep myself."
"Then what, I pray thee, dost thou want here, and what may thy business be?"
"Well, kind sir, to tell the truth, I dreamed that if I came hither, I should hear good news."
Right heartily did the shopkeeper laugh.
"Nay, thou must be a fool to take a journey on such a silly errand. I'll tell thee, poor silly country fellow, that I myself dream too o' nights, and that last night I dreamt myself to be in Swaffham, a place clean unknown to me, but in Norfolk if I mistake not, and methought I was in an orchard behind a pedlar's house, and in that orchard was a great oak-tree. Then meseemed that if I digged I should find beneath that tree a great treasure. But think you I'm such a fool as to take on me a long and wearisome journey and all for a silly dream. No, my good fellow, learn wit from a wiser man than thyself. Get thee home, and mind thy business."
When the pedlar heard this he spoke no word, but was exceeding glad in himself, and returning home speedily, digged underneath the great oak-tree, and found a prodigious great treasure. He grew exceeding rich, but he did not forget his duty in the pride of his riches. For he built up again the church at Swaffham, and when he died they put a statue of him therein all in stone with his pack at his back and his dog at his heels. And there it stands to this day to witness if I lie.

Extract from The Project Gutenberg EBook of More English Fairy Tales

Crime is not a funny thing

This Christmas…keep it safe, keep it secure is the advice for householders from the Swaffham Neighbourhood Policing Team with some pointers to keep hold of your festive cheer.

 Close curtains when dark to prevent thieves looking in.
 Use timer switches so it looks like you are at home.
 Remember to secure windows, doors and outbuildings.
 Record serial numbers, take photos of valuable items.
 Mark items with a police approved marking system
 – it makes them worthless to thieves
 Always lock your car and never leave property or shopping on show – even in car parks.
 Shred personal items to prevent possible identity theft.
 Keep wallets, bags and any valuables on you hidden.
 Don’t advertise new goods – never leave empty packaging by bins.

Sound, serious suggestions. Being burgled isn't a funny business, I've been done twice myself, so I felt a little guilty when a visual witticism made me outwardly laugh when reading of someone else's misfortune. The Lorry Crime Blog reported yesterday of a cheese and salami rustler who stole a lorry from TMM Distribution Ltd, a Swaffham firm established by father and son Doug and Andrew Spells, later found burnt out just east of Norwich near Bawburgh. Sorry to hear it, I hope someone is brought to account for it. What came into my head?

Sorry lads, gallows humour.

Peace and quiet

The tranquillity of the countryside is somewhat of a myth. True it is not as bad as living on a busy road in Kentish Town NW5, which featured in many a Madness video in the 1980's and my home for over 10 years. There is a two hour gap in the cacophony in NW5, between 3 and 5 am, when the black cabs stop and the commute begins. You get used to it and, like picking out an individuals voice in a crowded room, you filter out the hubbub with the efficiency of a pair of noise cancelling headphones. Living in the rural idyll, that is North Pickenham, it was the bloody birds. Not just the wild ones either but a field of 'tame' geese who follow similar hours to the traffic in NW5, get spooked at the falling of a leaf and gaggle with great gusto. All background noise to me now. The only offenders that you can't ignore are the sugar beet trucks and the planes. In the rush to extract their sweetness before the hard frosts, the huge beet lorries thunder down usually silent single track lanes in a 24 hour operation. It's a short lived inconvenience and, like the first cuckoo or the arrival of the peewitting Lapwing, marks the passing of the year. The planes are a year long, if only a Monday to Friday, companion. On your way from the south you simply can't ignore the enclosed communities inhabited by the American air force. Pickenham is on their flight path to the North Sea but they are usually flying high and slow with the occasional dog fight above being a free personal air display. The boy is brought out in me as well when the local Tornado GR4s use my now defunct TV aerial as a beacon to their home at Marham, just the other side of Swaffham. Most alarming is when they make a direct hit. There is no preliminary rumble just a bed shaking, roof falling in, missile hit kind of experience. I love it. The standing down on the immediate threat of Marham closing then, as reported in the NEN, was good news not just for my selfish plane spotting but for the local economy. Four of the eight twelve plane squadrons the Royal Air Force has are based here and a strategic review next year threatens one or two of these, fingers crossed. They have avoided this RAF cull, let's hope they avoid next years wing clipping too.

Frying the nest (sorry for the racist Asian pun)

With rumours of Stephen Fry leaving our shores in the papers, will his West Bilney home be up for grabs like the possessions of his Swaffham, sorry Market Shipborough, alter ego in the first auction yesterday at Watton Salerooms as reported in the EDP? The rest is under the hammer on the 22nd December. Keep Twitted on his weekly, daily, hourly plans @ stephenfry and wonder why your life is so inactive! Is this his replacement Norfolk sod paid for by this popular Marks & Spencer ad? Surely at home near Swaffham he would be seen, as usual, purchasing his wares at Waitrose!

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Awaiting some snow

The forecast says snow but, just at the moment, Breckland is covered in freezing cold fog. This week has delighted with the brightest double rainbow I can remember, I did get a soaking though, and lovely sunny, crisp days when the turbines were still. At the moment it is just cold and dank with the warning of inches of snow maybe coming from our Benelux neighbours across the briny. Too late for the usual festive shot of Bertie in the snow for the Christmas card, had to do with some recognition from he up on high instead.


In the beginning...
Inspired by my new friends @ Norfolk Coast here are my first musings from Mid Norfolk.

North Pickenham is probably most famous for its disused airfield with the eight turbines operated by Enertrag and the largest turkey farm courtesy of Norfolk legend Bernard Matthews. BM has applied to put up two turbines of his own on the site, completely independent from those already there, and not everyone is pleased about it. Planning applications to Breckland Council can now be viewed on line including any formal objections with this simple planning application search facility. Further plans for more modern windmills just down the road were reported in the EDP and that's on top of the two already in Swaffham.

No Denver Boots in clamp down, just on the spot fines
Free parking has always been a blessing to both shopper and purveyor in Norfolk market towns. Thankfully, plans to charge have roused great opposition. Anyone who has had the displeasure of driving and parking in Central London will know of the running battles with traffic wardens (I was once fined for double parking. The evidence provided were two photographs of my car facing in different directions, I was doing a three point turn!) Such madness has not spread this far north east but the EDP reports that the police will crack down on illegal parking in Swaffham, especially on market days.

Unitary or not unitary
After the failure by Suffolk Councils to stop them and to the disappointment of KNL (Keep Norfolk Local) group of district councils, the Boundary Commission has reported to the Secretary of State and has recommended a Norfolk Unitary Authority. 
To have your say write to:
Unitary Structures Team

Zone 3/J1
Eland House
Bressenden Place
London SW1E 5DU

Deadline is 19th January 2010.