Category Archives: norfolk

Foraging in the hedgerows – spring

Today I went foraging in the woods with friends for the fresh green tops of stinging nettles which are just coming into growth to make nettle and ginger beer. I can’t yet vouch for the flavour – it takes about 7 days to be ready to drink, so watch this space.

Even if it turns out barely drinkable it was a good reason to get out into the spring sunshine, which angled through the new leaves and splashed on colonies of white wood anemones. Top tips are avoid anywhere dogs might have used as a toilet, and stick to the bright green top growth rather than the older, darker leaves.

There is a good recipe here – fingers crossed it turns out well, and is worth the odd sting. Go try it!

NB If you’re interested in reading more about art, design and culture in East Anglia, please do follow the blog to its new home at http://flatlanders.co.uk/ – you’ll find more posts on everything interesting happening in the area.

Stinging nettle pic by foreby on flickr
Wood anemone pic by Vinje on flickr

Old Town

If you stand and listen in the Old Town showroom in Holt, Norfolk, you hear the ticking of the clock and the sound of the sewing machine upstairs, making garments from traditional, hardwearing materials. There is no sleepy electronic beeping or the soft hum of computer fans that  we tend to take for granted.

The list of fabrics they use reads like a hymn to the forgotten glories of British mills – not just Harris Tweed but also corduroy, heavy tactile linens, cavalry drill, wool serge, moleskin and flannel. Shapes are simple, inspired by workwear from the last hundred or so years, and crucially don’t change seasonally. If you find something that suits you can continue having it made for you in summer and winter weight materials.

Old Town started 18 years ago in Norwich as a retro kitchenwear shop, but gradually the clothes started creeping in, and gained a fanatical following.

In their own words “Our single breasted rever collar jacket is an unfaithful copy of one found in a tool locker during the demolition of Stratford locomotive works; locker and contents seen on offer at Lea Bridge Road car boot sale.

Handed in as lost property in 1936, the originals for our style know as ‘High Rise’ were then mislaid behind a radiator in the London Transport Lost Property Office until redecoration in the early nineteen eighties.

Our popular ‘Overall Jacket’ is the mutant offspring of a pre-war lamplighter’s jacket glimpsed on the back of a chair in Coffee Republic at Canary Wharf.”

The Old Town look isn’t a painstaking reproduction of a particular period, but more an exuberant ramble through Britain’s idea of its heritage. Playful references to the Nanny state (the ties you can just see in the photo above), a range of Fair Isle tank tops straight out of an Enid Blyton book, and the dreaded Aertex which sadly reminds me of the smell of my old school changing rooms, all contribute to a jolly air of faded seaside holidays and 1950s milkmen.

Everything both downstairs and up contributes to this feeling – there is no jarring note of  the 21st century creeping in.

Upstairs is a low ceilinged work room reminiscent of those on Saville Row, where everything is cut out and much of it sewn, the rest being sent out to local seamstresses before coming back for finishing. It is the exact opposite of buying semi-disposable chainstore clothes made in the Far East.

So, if you prefer Gill Sans to Helvetica, and paper cones of winkles to plastic trays of sushi, do investigate further. Telephone former Woolworths saturday girl Miss Willey, visit the store in Holt or their fine website, where most of the male models sport estimable beards and the ladies sensible shoes suitable for bicycling through country lanes.

Old Town clothing

Also turn to The Evening Star, their cheerful publication which makes the final demise of pale blue Aertex headline news. Next edition coming soon.

Old Town, 49 Bull Street, Holt, Norfolk NR25 6HP. 01263 710001. (they do say it is advisable to telephone before travelling any great distance).

Opening times Tuesday to Saturday 10am – 5pm

NB If you’re interested in reading more about art, design and culture in East Anglia, please do follow the blog to its new home at http://flatlanders.co.uk/ – you’ll find more posts on everything interesting happening in the area.

Hunting signs of spring


Today is the equinox and the official beginning of spring. Signs of it are catching hold all across East Anglia. Yesterday I popped into the gardens at Blickling Hall to see their lovely dell full of hellebores – if the weather holds this weekend will be the perfect time to visit them.

It’s a blowsy spring joy seeing so many together among other spring plants and set off by the elegant browns of last autumn’s fallen leaves. There are some more daring combinations to – hellebores with black grass – is that Ophiopogon Nigrescens?

Even more unexpected – hellebores with tree ferns, which I would never have thought of but looked beautiful, somehow anchoring the alien form of the tree ferns into this very english garden.

The rest of the garden is laid out on impeccable classical lines, with a great deal of attention paid to vistas opening up and focal points as you move through the garden. If, like me, you fetishise lichen-covered urns and centuries old  mellow brick walls, then this garden is heaven.

It wasn’t until I turned back to the house that I realised there is a whole lake there as well. The views are so controlled for when you approach the front of the house onwards that you just don’t see it until you turn back on yourself.It’s still a little early in the year, but the bones of the perennial garden are beautiful and everywhere there are green shoots thrusting through the mulch. Definitely one to visit in full summer as well.

The house is a delight too – unlike many National Trust properties it is built on a properly domestic scale so you can actually imagine living there, with bright, cosy rooms, low ceilinged enough to heat and not so large you would have to shout to people at the opposite side of the living room. Add in beautiful decorative ceilings and wallpapers, and a glorious Long Gallery it’s a place to spend a little time. Everything is open Wednesday to Sunday at the moment, more in the summer.

Blickling, Norwich, Norfolk NR11 6NF
Telephone: 01263 738030
NB If you’re interested in reading more about art, design and culture in East Anglia, please do follow the blog to its new home at http://flatlanders.co.uk/ – you’ll find more posts on everything interesting happening in the area.

All the toys you can shake a stick at

Drum-playing BearThis Thursday there is a very special auction happening at Keys auction house in Aylesham, Norfolk. A stonking collection of automata, robots, toys. Browsing the catalogue it seems that everything that moves by itself is worthy of inclusion.

RobotsI’m a sucker for both auctions and toys with interesting or quizzical expressions on their faces – bringing them together might be too much for my discretion and self control.

Automated CowThere are also delights such as the lampophone (below), a combination lamp and gramophone, with the turntable hidden in the ‘cake’ base of the lamp and the speaker tube being the lamp’s column, the opening concealed by the shade. Although it also works as an ordinary lamp, so as not to give the game away.

The marvellous lampophone

Bids can be made by phone and over the web as well as in person, although with no estimates or guide prices on the website I suspect we might be in the ‘Collectors Only’ end of the price range.

Special Collectors Sale Thusday March 19th 2009.  To Feature the Arthur Windley Collection of 100+ Lots of Automaton 75+ Lots Japanese Robots, 300 + Vintage and other Toys, 75 Old Radios, Arcade Machines, Model Thursford Wurlitzer Organ, Juke boxes inc Wurlitzer, Rock Ola, Seeburg, Gramophones, Quantity of Lps & 45’s to include some rare Elvis Presley. Also to include 1970’s Taito Space Invaders Arcade Game, Sega Afterburner, Konami Track & Field Video Arcade Game.
Viewing Wed 18th March 9am to 7:30pm and from 9am the day of the sale.
Sale starts from 11am Thursday 19th March 09
Keys Aylsham Salerooms
Off Palmers Lane
Aylsham
Norwich
Norfolk
NR11 6JA
+44 (0)1263 733195
Maps and directions here.
Catalogue here.
NB If you’re interested in reading more about art, design and culture in East Anglia, please do follow the blog to its new home at http://flatlanders.co.uk/ – you’ll find more posts on everything interesting happening in the area.

Memories of the Norfolk Broads

I’ve just been spending time on a fascinating site broadlandmemories.co.uk, an archive of photos and reminiscences of the Norfolk Broads from the 1900’s to the present day.

For me the best part is the photo galleries from the 1930’s and 1950’s – the men in their one piece wool bathing suits, wearing sports jackets in the pubs. Otherwise not much has changed – the same pubs and landmarks in the same places, the ineffable joy of messing around in boats…

Also such fascinating ephemera as original invoices and provisions lists:

Norfolk Broads provisions order formThis is from the 1950’s when Dunham’s stores would deliver to your boat in time for your arrival so you could immediately set sail with your three quarters of a pound of typhoo tea, four pounds of tinned pineapple, six pints of custard powder and three pounds of jam and marmalade. Sounds like they had a sybaritic week in store…

www.broadlandmemories.co.uk

NB If you’re interested in reading more about art, design and culture in East Anglia, please do follow the blog to its new home at http://flatlanders.co.uk/ – you’ll find more posts on everything interesting happening in the area.

China China China!!!

The three exclamation points are all theirs. The China China China!!! exhibition is Chinese contemporary art at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts in Norwich.

wang yu yang artificial moonIt aims to be a wide ranging survey of the genre, or in their own words “Reflecting different perspectives on current art practice in China, the exhibition is organised into three sections – within which each curator explores the global market for Chinese art by selecting artists who are not bound by the market’s rules, but who represent the complex reality of a modern China.”

Not speaking contemporary-art-ese, I can only say that Wang Yu Yang’s Artificial Moon pictured above is a large, hypnotic ball of a thousand low energy light bulbs, and Art Chicken in Norwich by Duan Jianyu (below) does exactly what it says in the title.


art_chicken_in_norwich

The exhibition runs until 3rd May
The Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts
Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts


University of East Anglia
Norwich
NR4 7TJ
T 01603 593199

Opening Times:
Tuesday to Sunday 10am-5pm
Wednesday 10am-8pm
NB If you’re interested in reading more about art, design and culture in East Anglia, please do follow the blog to its new home at http://flatlanders.co.uk/ – you’ll find more posts on everything interesting happening in the area.

A nautical one night stand

Bo Nanafana Shore Leave poster

Valentines day entertainment for all you 1940’s pin up girls at the Talk in Norwich. It looks like a glorious evening – I’d like to draw your attention to the dress code of Fishnets and Seamen. Find out more on their myspace page.

via All Things Considered
NB If you’re interested in reading more about art, design and culture in East Anglia, please do follow the blog to its new home at http://flatlanders.co.uk/ – you’ll find more posts on everything interesting happening in the area.