Saturday, March 14, 2009

A Day in Norwich, a Fine City

I spent the whole of yesterday in Norwich. It made me realise how much I miss the place. For those who don't know, I spent four very happy years at the University of East Anglia studying German in the early 1980s, then spent two years working for the then Norwich North MP, Patrick Thompson. I then went back to Norfolk in 2003 to stand for the Conservatives in North Norfolk and I write a fortnightly column for the Norwich-based Eastern Daily Press. Norfolk is a county which it is impossible to escape from. Even though I am from Essex, I still regard Norfolk as a second home.

Yesterday I went to see my old lecturer from UEA, Gordon Turner, who I hadn't seen for many years. He was one of those people in my life who went the extra mile to help me. One of those special people who enhance every life they touch. I wondered if he had changed, but I needn'thave worried. It was as if there hadn't been two intervening decades since I graduated.

I then went to the University campus to speak to 120 politics students, alongside Steve Richards from The Independent about how blogs are affecting the mainstream media. The session only lasted an hour but I really got the feeling that the students got a lot from it. There were some excellent questions. Afterwards I went for a drink with with a couple of the students. Wandering around the campus and student union building was very odd. it was as if the 24 years hadn't happened. Do other people feel like this when they visit their old school or university? I felt like a ghost, invisible to everyone else, yet somehow back where I spent four extremely happy years.

Later in the afternoon I went down to The Forum, in the City Centre, to do an interview with Radio Norfolk. I then wandered round to Tombland, which is where much of my socialising was done during my university years. It was very different. Pizza One, Pancakes Too has disappeared, the Louis Marchesi pub has become something called Take 5. But the Maid's Head hotel was still there, so I met up with my friend Deborah Slattery for a drink before driving back to London to do the BBC paper review.

Leaving Norwich I kept thinking how much I missed the place. I wonder if I will return one day, and this time for good.

28 comments:

Womble On Tour said...

It's often said that people tend to fall in love with hteir university town or city. I went to Bradford - obviously there are exceptions that prove the rule.

strapworld said...

Iain,

Memories are that. You were lucky to have, in effect, your memories enhanced. However the old adage 'Never go back' is sound advice.

You have moved on, you have certainly moved political blogging to another level.

Keep your eyes on the road ahead!

Mog said...

I was married in Norwich .... f***ing hate the place!

Rush-is-Right said...

Afterwards I went for a drink with with a couple of the students.....the Louis Marchesi pub has become something called Take 5. But the Maid's Head hotel was still there, so I met up with my friend Deborah Slattery for a drink before driving back to London to do the BBC paper review.

Careful!

Demetrius said...

Wasn't it Norwich where the series "The History Man" was filmed in 1980, with Anthony Sher, Paul Brooke, and Geraldine James? It gave us all an insight into University life at the time. I was on a course there in '76, and the beer was dreadful, the only stuff around was Watney's.

Wrinkled Weasel said...

I know what you mean when you say you felt like a ghost. Going back, you see people in your minds eye, fluttering down the corridors like wraiths, young, as undergraduates, ever full of hope and the fog of unknowing. The smell always brings everything flooding back.

Paul Burgin said...

"Do other people feel like this when they visit their old school or university?"

Yes, although there is the occasional feeling that sacrilege has taken place when you spot noticeable changes

Rab C. Nesbitt said...

I was in Norwich once. A chap I was talking to introduced me to his wife and sister, but there was only one woman beside him...

Dave H said...

I've only been to Norwich twice, to buy ammunition(!) at a shop called Uttings. I gained the impression things don't change that quickly there. Not that's always a bad thing.

O/T. On R4's website:

"Friday
The Counterfeiter's Tale
The story of the Nazi's plan to forge millions of pounds and ruin Britain's economy."

Am I the only one to to look at that and think: Gordon's Quantitative Easing plan?

Paul Halsall said...

"Feel like a ghost".

At 48 I feel that all the time. It's kind of useful I suppose. Young mancs out for a good night completely leave me alone on buses or the tram. Others I have talked to note this happens to them as well.

It's a less pleasant experience in a gay bar though.

someday said...

Rab C. Nesbitt said...

"I was in Norwich once. A chap I was talking to introduced me to his wife and sister, but there was only one woman beside him..."

That's normal for Norfolk.

I'd be careful, Rab. In Norwich it is still legal to shoot a Scotsman with a bow and arrow from the city walls.

Simon Gardner said...

So where was Alan Partridge from? Aha.

Elby the Beserk said...

Haven't been there for 40 years. I do recall, however, buying a first day copy of Piper At The Gates Of Dawn there, in a classic old record ship with listening booths panelled with pinboard.

Hpapy days :-)

Salmondnet said...

Someday: "Legal"? Must be bleeding heart liberals in Norwich. In Hereford it would be compulsory.

davidc said...

demetrius@ ----and the beer was dreadful, the only stuff around was Watney's'.

watneys bought out the two, or it may have been three, norwich brewers in the 60's.

one was morgans (whose brewery was in the norwich redlight area - blink and you missed it- and another was bullards. can't remember the name of the third.

although iworked for watneys at the time i can't comment on the quality or otherwise of the beer being a non beer drinker.

i do remember however what a very pleasant place norwich was and probably still is.

All Seeing Eye said...

As a Round Tabler, I'm saddened by the loss of the name "Louis Marchesi" from a landmark in Norwich - where he started the organisation.

nostalgic said...

As an ITFC fan I laugh at the Norwich team but will admit that I do like the city.

Andrew Benton said...

How did you manage to turn a marginal into a Lib Dem stronghold?

Richard Abbot said...

But did you go to peppermint park or the reindeer first time round iain?

waf said...

Iain
Yes, Norfolk is a fantastic place.
I was bitterly disappointed at when you did not win the N Norfolk seat at the last election but on reflection, if you had; you would not have had time to produce this superb blog which I read with great enjoyment every day.

someday said...

davidc said...

"one was morgans (whose brewery was in the norwich redlight area - blink and you missed it- and another was bullards. can't remember the name of the third."

Steward & Patterson?

Zeddy said...

***I spent four very happy years at the University of East Anglia studying German in the early 1980s, then spent two years working for the then Norwich North MP, Patrick Thompson.***

Iain, you really ought to learn a bit of tact. Failing to give us an adjective for the two years contrasts bit too glaringly with the happiness of the four years.

Nick Anstead said...

Glad you enjoyed the day. It was certainly an excellent seminar and - as you suggest - I think everyone there got a lot out of it.

John MacLeod said...

Oddly enough, I visited my old school in Glasgow yesterday - Jordanhill - for the first time in many years, and I can relate exactly to what you and Wrinkled Weasel say. The odd sense that intervening decades have been an illusion; the extraordinary feeling of being a ghost - and, still more disturbing, of being quite invisible, even with the genial headmaster at your arm; the rush of memories and the eerie familiarity of smell and a entire tide of emotion: thankfulness, humility, vain regret, profound sorrow, keen sense of mortality and a weird healing. It is so difficult to describe, isn't it?

Newmark said...

Demetrius said...'Wasn't it Norwich where the series "The History Man" was filmed in 1980 ...?'

No. It was filmed at the University of Lancaster.

Paul Dickson and Illuminee Nganemariya said...

It's a beautiful day in Norwich - it's definitely a great city to live and work

4x4 the people said...

Given that, by your own admission, you have no interest in literature, intellectual movies, foreign food or anything else that smacks of culture its not suprising that Norwich beckons.

You must have been considered quite the sophisticate back in the day with your complete set of ABBA records and an A level in German.

Simon Gardner said...

Can’t stand Norfolk (despite forays to the coast for bird-watching). It’s just horribly, horribly flat. Flat as far as the eye can see.