Saturday 7 December 2013

Knowing me, knowing Norfolk

Today I went to see Alpha Papa with Steve Coogan. It's a lot of fun and I would have enjoyed it anyway, but it was an extra little treat that it was set in Norfolk, and I recognised the locations. That's something I've come to take for granted in so many American movies: New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston are all regularly on screen and going to those places for the first time was oddly disorientating (except not, the opposite, because they were so familiar). It applies too to London, of course. But with this movie it was the other way around, because I'd been there but never seen it on screen before.

Actually, who has? Norfolk, though it's an easy drive from London, is a rather neglected part of England, tourist-wise. Foreign tourist, that is - it's a popular enough seaside destination for the Brits. Why, even the Queen has a holiday home there, at Sandringham. But otherwise, it's really only known for Alan Partridge, who's fictional after all, and Stephen Fry who actually lives there. There are prettier bits of England - Norfolk is rather flat and marshy - but it has its own peculiar charms, and even though the weather was mostly dampish and the second half of my short stay there was rather blighted by having dislocated my shoulder, I liked it, and would have been pleased to have had more time there to poke around.

Norwich itself is an ancient city with a splendid cathedral, the market (above) is colourful and lively, it has quaint lanes and good restaurants, there's a very solid castle on a hill, and a river with swans. What more could you ask? It even has a dedicated teddy bear shop down a steep cobbled lane. And up on the coast there's Cromer, whose pier featured in the movie's climactic scene - a classic English seaside town with rows of colourful beach huts along its pebbly beach. I wouldn't be tempted to swim, though, even in the summer. That's the North Sea there. Never been called 'azure' in its life.

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