Sunday, 31 October 2010
Norfolk Children's Book Centre...
I can't believe I neglected to mention the highlight of our journey back to Luton (no, it wasn't the long queues on the A11 by Elveden!) We paid an almost-impromptu visit to the Norfolk Children's Book Centre, an unusual little building just off the road between Cromer and Norwich.
It's nothing like a normal bookshop - in fact, it's more akin to a library crossed with a second-hand record store, although its shelves were full of brand-new books organised by subject matter or age range along almost the accessible wall space. Some had been signed by their authors - and even more entertaining were the inscriptions by popular children's authors on the pale internal walls, with little messages written in marker pen to show they'd been there and enjoyed the experience.
We felt very welcome, even though we were the only visitors (given the sounds of packaging and tape emanating from a nearby room, I think they do quite a lot of mail deliveries) and Marilyn, the owner, is clearly passionate about the subject - "We're not interested in grown-up books!" she said to the children.
I would definitely recommend a visit if you're nearby - or even a look around their website: www.ncbc.co.uk. In many ways I wish I could pursue the same excellence and passion for a subject similarly close to my heart - it's a wonderful way to make a living!
Posted by james at 9:02 PM
Saturday, 30 October 2010
An autumn half-term full of delights...
Although the summer holidays were full of interesting days out - and, of course, my mate Jon's wedding, we didn't really get our traditional "week away" that takes us away from Luton and plants us in unfamiliar but friendly surroundings for a relaxing break. Last year we spent the October half-term just east of Hastings - this year we ventured to the top right-hand side of Norfolk, specifically the small town of Cromer, which is right on the coast, up from Great Yarmouth and down from Hunstanton!
The house in which we were staying was remarkable - probably Edwardian, with high ceilings and bookshelves full of interesting (and very old!) volumes, many of which were inscribed with the names of the current incumbants. Also included among its number was a 1960 BBC yearbook, which made very interesting reading! The size and topology of the building reminded me a little of my Mother's house; it seemed remarkably spacious, despite the large, antique furniture that had probably graced the rooms for many decades. Most notable was the piano in the front room - the shortest I've ever seen, with an ornately decorated cloth front. It was inscribed "John Broadwood & Sons" which, referring to the ukpiano.org site suggests it's over a century old. Amusingly, it was more out of tune, and the action in much worse repair than the Churchill in my studio - I hadn't thought that was possible! (Incidentally, in trying to ascertain the vintage of our piano, I've discovered that Churchill was, in fact, a distributor rather than a manufacturer, so it's hard to pin it down).
That was just one of the house's delights, the principal of which was that the sea was clearly visible from the windows of the front rooms. It was blissful to sit in one of those easy-chairs that engulf one (making them very difficult to leave) in our bedroom and just watch the waves go by. Despite being just yards away, though, there was quite a steep cliff between the house and the beach, to which a zig-zag path was attached, so it was about a three minute walk to get there. Fortunately, the weather - certainly in the latter part of the week - was lovely, so we were able to spend quite a substantial time on the shore. We didn't get to see a sunrise per-se, but early one morning, we walked along the seafront to the pier, where we watched the dawn break in the most spectacular reds and yellows, as a surfer tried to catch some early-morning waves. There weren't many.
We had quite a few days out, too, including a visit to Norwich with our friend Ann, who's very well acquainted with the city, so was able to give us the best tour possible. We went to the castle, the Forum and into many of the shops including one called Thorns, which was probably the most remarkable DIY store we'd ever been in - like a labyrinthine B&Q! It's definitely worth a look around, and typifies the richness of independent shops that Norwich has managed to keep hold of, where many others are left with a Wilkinsons and an out-of-town 'megamart.'
There are a few photos of the city's more unusual delights in the gallery.
Before we left for our holiday, I was asked if I would take some photos of a windfarm for a project - not a problem, since I have something of a fondness for these wonderful works of engineering, and I was aware that there's a large off-shore farm just north of Great Yarmouth. I'd also heard about the EcoTech Centre, which boasts the only wind turbine that can accommodate visitors in an enclosed platform just under the rotor. How could I resist an opportunity like that? Well, the simple answer is I couldn't, so we took a drive to Swaffham on the rainiest day of the holiday, and, undeterred by the weather, ascended the 305 stairs to the panoramic viewing area, where we could see the blades whizzing by twenty-two times a minute. There's a family photo of us to the right - if you click it, you might be able to see the white blade behind us in the split second it was there! I would definitely recommend a visit - it's a unique experience climbing up the inside of a wind turbine as it whirrs and wobbles, and the view from the top is stunning, even when it's wet!
On our way back to Cromer, I took (dragged?!) the family via a slightly larger windfarm (in North Pickenham) for some more damp photos - I also made it (alone, this time!) to the seaside town of Hemsby to take pictures of the Scroby Sands off-shore windfarm before dusk fell the following day, and came back via West Somerton - without doubt, there are a lot of wind farms in East Anglia, and even more to come. When we took a walk along the cliff path in search of a playpark, we ended up in conversation with a man who told us that another eighty-eight offshore turbines are being built even now. In fact, out to see there was equipment 'planting' the bases - I could just about make it out with the longest zoom on my camera!
We also took a trip to the "Splash" leisure pool at Sheringham, a number of jaunts to and along the sea-front, and between us even managed three successful geocaching finds over the course of the week!
Overall, then, I think it was a very successful, fun and relaxing holiday - we were fortunate with the weather, and I think we all had a great time. Back to work and school next week... next thing we know it'll be Christmas! More photos from our holiday, as always, can be found in the gallery.
Posted by james at 11:20 PM
Saturday, 16 October 2010
An audio recording from AudioBoo