A Snail-Wail

Not Quite a Big Mac

I don’t have much of a garden, just a shared courtyard. I keep a few pots in it and every spring plant them with loud showy flowers. Alas, we have a large population of snails that enjoy a good feast on my flowers. But these aren’t what I’d call the native snails, delicate in size and pretty in colour.

Pretty Snail on a Stick

A pretty snail like this would be a welcome visitor to my garden. (Source: Wiki)

No, the snails I mean are the huge devils, all drably striped—Helix aspersa. I tend to think of them as French snails, the ones they call petit gris and serve them up in garlic butter as escargot.


A dish of ‘delicious’ escargot. (Source: Wiki)

In Britain the Helix aspersa is commonly called the ‘Garden Snail’. But I’m not at sure they’re indigenous. There is no tradition of snail-eating here, although we’ll feast on the garden snail’s aquatic cousins i.e. the winkle and whelk. Were these giant beasts yet another import of the Romans? Or were the Normans responsible? (Both Romans and Normans were known to chomp upon snails).

The Garden Snail

Helix aspersa (Source: Wiki)

The thing is, I’d never been troubled by these monster-snails until I moved to Great Yarmouth. Is there, perhaps, a greater concentration if them here due to it being a port, and thus a potential site of invasion? Ah, the humble snail, it is no problem, I tell myself; there’s a whole lot worse could come off those ships. A rabid dog? A plague-carrying rat? They have in the past.

Regardless of source and cause, these slime trailing creatures used to send me bananas, munching their way through fresh juicy leaves and sweet colourful petals—till I found a solution. Snails don’t like coffee. I’m not sure if it’s the taste or the texture, but layering the pot with a nice topping of used grinds certainly does keep the snails away.

Prehistoric Snails

The taste for snails is no recent thing, though I’d thought it a famine food that’s become an acquired taste, a delicacy. But not so.

According to an article published on the PLOS One website (20 August 2014), humans were eating snails 30,000 years ago.

Javier Fernández-López de Pablo and colleagues from the Catalan Institute of Human Palaeo-ecology and Social Evolution have discovered remains of Palaeolithic snails at Cova de la Barriada (a pair of rock shelters near Benidorm), in south-eastern Spain. Apparently they were a large species—yeah, and so are the ones in my garden. From the archaeological context, it seems our ancestors enjoyed their snails roasted in embers of pine and juniper.

Yet the proto-Spaniards seem to have been alone in their early culinary enjoyment. In the neighbouring Mediterranean countries, e.g., Morocco, France and Italy, snails wouldn’t appear on the menu for another 10,000 years.

All I can say is, I do wish they’d kept their snails to the far side of the Channel. And I wonder what’s the Palaeolithic equivalent of garlic butter?

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Roots of Rookeri 39

Citadel Lecheni
Sifadis, Shore House Heiress

Week Twenty-Nine

The huge double doors opened, a holde to either side holding them as if the great weight of the doors was insufficient. Breken Lafard entered. Two more holden trailed him, their pikes crossed between them. Sifadis had had to rant till hoarse to gain this audience and seeing this she wanted to sneer: Crud and crusts, did they fear she’d suddenly lunge and kill him? Or was it her companion they feared?

Jonesi was taking a chance in coming here. Abettor of the usurper, he could be arrested. But Jonesi had insisted—also insisting he carry the evidence for her, but there she refused. If they whizzed him away that precious page would go with him. She had dressed him; this time not in her mother’s kirtle and shift but in cotton trousers and an unadorned silken smock-shirt. She didn’t tell him these had also been her mother’s (her nightwear). The digitalis-purple suited his complexion to perfection.

“I grant this audience as a personal favour, Sifadis Lafdi,” Breken said while still walking the length of the cavernous chamber. “Gowen Sivator has begged more time in order to question you.”

“Gowen Hadd has yet to visit me,” Sifadis said with more acerbity than perhaps was wise, “and I cannot wait longer to see my husband.”

That halted Breken Lafard mid-step. His guard with their crossed pikes blundered into him. Fast to recover with mumbled apologies, the holden stepped back.

“Sifadis,” he tutted, his tift head sparkling, “you have no husband.”

“I beg to correct you, Hadd Leef, but Boteras Rookeri Sharmin is my husband—legally bound—and I want to see him.”

“You mean . . .?” Breken’s tongue stumbled; he seemed unable to order his words. He tried again with better success, yet clearly he was astounded by what she had said. “Are you telling me that stench of a runman was right? That you, Sifadis, are conspiring to-to-to dislodge me? If I had sense, I would have you arrested and thrown in that cell along with him.”

“Hush, Hadd Leef. Peace,” Sifadis said, her hands held up in appeasement. “That ‘stench of a runman’ was wrong, I swear it. If you knew Lubanthan society . . . My husband has no desire for this; he hates wealth. Ay, he is the legere elect’s adopted nephew but that means nothing to him. He is a humble playwright, a poet, a singer, a dancer and musician. An entertainer. I had to trick him to wed me, so afraid was he of my wealth.”

“This is true, Hadd Leef,” Jonesi added while Sifadis theatrically wrung her hands.

“And who is this?” Breken asked, now looking at him.

“I am his choreographer, Hadd Leef,” Jonesi responded with no cheek to his voice. “And I swear it’s true, to Boddy Felagi gold in a purse is Mercury’s Curse. He didn’t know that by wedding this bel hade, here, he would become heir to your chair. He would have run one million miles to avoid it.”

“But you knew of the chair?” Breken turned on Sifadis.

How could she deny it. She had told Gowen of it—though at the time the notion of finding the heir had been little more than a dream. She certainly hadn’t intended to wed him. Such action entirely defeated her original plan.

“I knew, ay,” she ceded, “but he did not—not when we wed in Raselstad. He knew nothing, not even the truth of my identity. It was your Mallen told him that.”

Breken Lafard said nothing to that little twist, instead holding silent until he had completed the distance to his legere-chair though he still didn’t sit.

“Why did you wed him?” he asked. “Was it to thwart me? Because I had promised to find you a husband, one more . . . suited to your position?”

This wasn’t going the way they had planned it. They seemed to be stuck in this puddle of wrangling. She had to break the tangle before Breken could have Jonesi and her arrested as well. She’d been controlling her tears, but now she allowed to seep. It added veracity: the weeping wife. Breken Lafard held out a cloth to her. Ay, his wife Affalind reportedly cried as a daily event.

“But what I don’t understand is why Gowen didn’t tell me of this—that you two are wed.”

“With respect, Hadd Leef,” Sifadis sniff back the tears, “I have yet to give my report to Gowen.”

“Yet he had the reports of Lorken and Kullt.”

“And you think I’d invite simple holden to my wedding?” She didn’t hold back on the outraged invective. She offered Breken the paper Eshe had hastily prepared. “Here. The legal record of it.”

Breken Lafard waved it away. She could see him squirm. For a long moment he said nothing. So now was the time to be more persuasive.

“I am told Mikel Awis wasn’t here to witness proceedings.”

Breken Lafard looked up, his face horror-stricken.

“It isn’t legal,” she continued as suggested by Eshe. “This that you do to my husband. Are you in the thrall of that Kalamite creature? What will the other Houses say when they hear of it? And you can be sure that I will bring it to their attention at the next Witan. Or will you have me killed as well, to keep my silence? With respects, Hadd Leef, how busy then will be the common-jaw?”

“He is my friend, Hadd Leef,” Jonesi put in. “And mayhap he trespassed upon the Runman’s castellation, but he is innocent of your allegation. I wonder what the nobles’ reaction when word of this reaches the Council at Regionalstad—in Luban.”

“I want only to see him, Hadd Leef,” Sifadis persisted.

“To see him might gratify the bel hade,” Jonesi said. “But to release him would satisfy better. Or do you want to bring about this lanterloo whimsy of a Lubanthan siege, Breken Hadd Leef?”

“Holde!” Breken Lafard shouted to the guard on the door. “Find Mikel Awis. And tell him, no excuses from him of his woes. I want him here, now!”

While he waited on Mikel Awis, Breken Lafard paced. Every time he turned Sifadis caught his wistful glance at his chair. Ay and fy and let him yearn for it. Unless she and Jonesi sat upon chairs he could not either, and his offering them seats could be construed that he’d lost the advantage. So Breken Lafard anxiously strutted from legere-chair to the door while Sifadis and Jonesi patiently waited.

Finally the door was yanked open and in burst Mikel looking like a tarnished Heli or a raging fire, all coppery silks and oxblood red, all topaz and citrines, the same as her own, all trapped in tan-and-cinnabar-spotted toad-skin (skins she had gifted to him). He held out his black-banded copper staff an arm’s length from him. Hay la, see how his cloak spread. He tried to impress, but she knew him too well and Jonesi would more likely scorn him.

“Ah, Disa! Returned I see. Has Gowen told you yet all the news? That tattagoose Kalamite has killed my Kilda.” Unusual for Mikel, he openly displayed his anger. He pointed his staff at Breken Lafard. “And he will not have the man arrested!”

“It cannot be proven,” Breken snapped.

“It mighty-well can if you’d but allow me five minutes alone with him. I’d torture it out of his red-stained soul.”

“I’m sorry to hear of it,” Sifadis said. “Rokke has yet to relay all the news to me. But I understand the stew was helping the Lubanthan woman. Is that right?”

“And that Lubanthan woman was neither a spy nor conspiring. She was gathering information on that deserter holde Ryal.”

“In which case, Mikel, the woman was spying,” Breken asserted, and grunted.

“Aye, aye, aye, Hadd Leef, but not against you. Well, not directly. And why now have you called me? I have little orphans to attend.” Anger expressed, Mikel flopped onto a chair.

“I need your advice—” Breken began.

“Aye and that is why we hold the Witan. What hour is it now? Aye, and I suppose it’s too early. But, with respect, Hadd Leef, can it not wait?”

“Mikel . . . peace,” Breken bid him none too pleasantly. “Hold your tongue for two winks of a moon while I speak. Now. Tell me, am I legally bound to allow a wife to visit her husband while he is awaiting execution?”

Mikel jumped to his feet, his anger returned. “With respects Hadd Leef, this hardly seems urgent.”

“Would you care to tell that to Sifadis?”

Mikel cast a frown in her direction. “But Disa has no husband. And if she had one, why would we execute him?”

“My husband, Boteras Rookeri-Sharmin, was accused yesterday—by that same stinking tattagoose—of intending to usurp the legere-chair.”

Mikel turned his frown on to Breken Lafard. “You had a trial? But I have the key to the Law Court.”

“I’m told the hearing took place here,” Sifadis told him. “In this same chamber.”

That set the Jacobs amongst the horses. Mikel bristled. “With respects, Hadd Leef, but that is most irregular. And nay, nix, never is it legal. What, accused by the tattagoose? I’d like to string that hindling up by his balls—begging your pardon for the slack-jaw, Disa. And what did he give as the evidence?”

Breken Lafard looked suddenly flustered.

“Well?” Mikel pushed.

Breken’s face reddened. Mikel continued his attack.

“You were going to execute a man on that accursed runman’s say?” Mikel rolled his eyes. “Breken Lafard, please tell me that’s not so.”

Sifadis frowned. Breken wouldn’t have bent to the wants of the stinking runman, she knew that. Which meant Breken had evidence of his own against Boddy. And that evidence could only be the soaked and dried wad of mace-paper that Lorken had taken from her—she’d have killed him for that had she been armed. But then why didn’t Breken produce it and show it to Mikel? There could be but one reason for it. Hay la, he’d destroyed it. Crud and crusts, what a lorel! And he thought that crumpled wad the only evidence to support Boddy’s claim? Nay! What Lorken took from her was only a copy; the original had remained safely stashed in her travel-pack. She glanced at Jonesi. Did he understand what was happening here?

Breken had found his voice—or maybe he’d found an excuse. “The Lubanthan upstart abducted Sifadis, snatched her straight out of their care. They rescued her—he was trying to rape her.”

Mikel massaged his brow. Sifadis thought he might weep.

“Disa, tell me,” Mikel asked her, “did your husband—are you truly wed? Oh, I suppose that you are—did he, as accused, try to rape you?”

“My husband rescued me from Mallen.” Her increasing impatience crisped her words. “We were happy at being back together, we—there is no crime in it: we are married. We just wanted to . . .” She allowed another release of tears. Aye, Boddy would be so proud of her acting if only he were here to see it.

“Married?” Mikel repeated as if he’d only then heard it.

“Ay,” she said impatiently. Ay and fy, was his head that addled by his beloved stew’s unlawful demise?

“This husband, he wouldn’t be to do with this-this . . . Luban business?” Mikel asked.

“In a way, ay,” Sifadis admitted; how could she not, she’d not tell a lie.

“He is the nephew—” Breken began.

Adopted nephew,’ Sifadis corrected.

“—of their legere-elect,” Breken completed his sentence.

“Is it legal?” Mikel asked.

Sifadis looked at him.

“The wedding, your union.”

Hap an’ hope! She wanted to scream. Boddy’s life hung by a rapidly fraying thread, and here she was, stuck on this while-a-way roundabout. She offered the document to Mikel. But as with Breken, he waved it aside.

“Hmm. Well. Congratulations, Bel Hade.”

“Ulfan- Sofrain, Awis,” she thanked him. “But he’s to be executed tonight, and all because of that stinking tattagoose.”

“Nix,” Mikel said in a tone that declared no counter-say. “I forbid it.”

“You might forbid it,” Breken said, “but he walks out of here and Kalamite will have him regardless of you.”

Sifadis looked at Jonesi. Had they a plan yet to deal with Kalamite? She supposed if need be they must leave Citadel Lecheni. Ay, yet she preferred if they didn’t. How would they live; by his songs, like a troubadour?

“Fetch him,” Mikel said to the same holde who had fetched him. “Fetch this Javanese Boteras-person here to me, now. Please, let us reunite the wretched Javan with his wife. I hold you responsible for this, Breken Lafard. All your doing in seeking an alliance with Citadel Pot, just so you can plot to kill that exiled rascal.”

“There will be no fetching without my command,” Breken said, a slight flinch at the mention of Mallen. But he need not have said it for the holde still stood by the door.

“Then give the wretched command, Breken Hadd Leef , else I shall wretchedly usurp your chair my wretched self. I am in no mood for this,” said Mikel Awis in an impatient snarl.

~ ~ ~

The holden set the corpse upon on the carpeted floor. Sifadis glanced at Jonesi. Nay-nix, this wasn’t right. Excused execution by the lafard-legere (who in the face of Mikel Awis couldn’t prove the charge) yet . . . Sifadis quickly replayed the details of the plan as given her by Eshe and Jonesi. Ask to see him. Or if it’s too late and he is executed, then claim his body. It was too late; he was already dead!

She felt the panic rising, and a scream too strong to hold down. She couldn’t control it, she threw herself upon his body. Nix! Nix-nix-nix-nix! The pain, the grief, it was tearing her apart. She wanted to hold him, to never stop holding him, to never let go, as if holding would make it all better. She rocked back and forth, her arms enfolding him, sobbing and sobbing.

She felt Jonesi’s tentative touch on her shoulder. “Bel Hade, we need to take him back to Shore House.”

She sat back on her heels and turned a fierce accusing glare at Breken Lafard

“You! You’ve killed him, my husband. You have made me a widow. You, you noleless nugget. Now I shall have reparation. You have ruined my House. Ruined it! Destroyed it forever. So now watch me destroy yours in return.”

Jonesi helped her to her feet, hushing her, fussing her, being her strength.

She turned next to Mikel. ”Seven days, allow me for grieving, although a lifetime will not be enough. Then call on me, please, if you will. I shall require your legal advice. And you,” she turned back to Breken Lafard who had neither moved nor made a sound but was looking aghast at Boddy’s corpse, “you will provide a chair to carry my husband back to my garden. Och! I must have a new tomb for him—you may pay for it, a gift to me. You realise now there will be no wedding alliance, I now cannot wed. Not ever. Don’t just stand there gawking. Do it!”

Breken, neck lost amongst his hunched shoulders, glanced at Mikel as if for assurance. Mikel nodded. Breken signed to his holden to obey the bel hade’s command.

While she waited she allowed Jonesi to hold her. Hay la, but the man have comforting arms.

~ ~ ~

Roots of Rookeri 40: 7th October

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A Posh Resort

What another walk?

For this week’s walk I headed south — which means I had to cross the river.

There’s been a bridge over the Yare since 1417. Before then travellers had to rely on a ferry. But it wasn’t until 1553 that the bridge was altered to make it a drawbridge. To allow shipping through? Nope. The burgesses of Yarmouth invested in a drawbridge for the exact same reason as a castle has a drawbridge – as defence. The burgesses of Yarmouth, at great risk to themselves, had not only supported but had actively aided Queen Mary to take the English throne (See Foundations 1, The Family, on Crimson’s History which give the background). The bridge lasted till 1570 when strong tides and ‘tempestuous’ weather swept it away. A new bridge was rapidly raised.

There had been two ferries over the Yare in the reign of Edward II (1307-1327). In addition to the Haven Ferry—which took only foot traffic—there was a horse ferry further down river. That horse ferry was still operating in the 1980s (as a foot & cycle ferry) but with the closure of the Birds Eye factory it was no longer viable. The two ferries were separately owned. The downriver (horse) ferry belonged to the manor of Gorleston – in 1509 the ferryman paid 8s. 4d. rent to his lord. The foot ferry belonged to the burgesses of Yarmouth.

Haven Bridge - opened

Haven Bridge—still a drawbridge (Source: Alex Drozd on Flickr)
Imagine the chaos this causes to traffic in and out of town. And the newer Breydon Bridge, built to serve the bypass, must also open and all to allow the cruisers–with their tall aerials—to pass.

Once over the river I’m into foreign territory—or so it must have seemed during the inter-town battles of the medieval-through-Tudor period. (See A Town Of Three Rivers). Peace reigns now that Southtown (formerly Little Yarmouth) is part of the borough of Great Yarmouth.

The bus deposits me at the south end of the High Street of Gorleston-on-Sea. Yep, you’ve got it. I’m spending the day at the beach.

But why go to Gorleston when Yarmouth boasts one of the best beaches in the country?

Yeah, and Yarmouth also boasts a seafront loud with amusement arcades, plus an amusement park with white-knuckle rides, and the smells of hot dogs and candyfloss and . . . you get the picture. Gorleston, however, has always been the quiet, reserved, posh resort.

Gorleston is mentioned in the Domesday Book—when it was the manor of Earl Gyrth, King Harold’s brother. It shared with Great Yarmouth the North Sea herring fishing; it also produced its own salt from salt-pans to preserve the fish. However, by Edwardian times the herring stocks were dwindling—though Yarmouth retained its fleet until the late 1960s. But while fish lost importance, tourism gained, and Gorleston blossomed as a seaside resort.

Gorleston 1905

Gorleston-on-Sea 1905 (Source: British Seaside Postcards)

With a white sandy beach the equal of its neighbour, a promenade on three levels, a theatre, a pier, a bandstand, and the obligatory model boat pond, Gorleston became a favourite for the ‘quieter types’.

Gorleston Pavilion Theatre

Gorleston Pavilion Theatre.
The architecture is typical of the Edwardian resort.
(To my shame, I have never attended a show here).

But enough of tourism. Back to the walk. To reach the beach I have first to walk alongside the river. Now without its fishing industry, and its North Sea ferry to Denmark, it still receives cargos of timber from Scandinavia, industrial grade salt, and sometimes organic fertiliser—our noses alert us to the delivery! But the port’s prime raison d’être is to service the North Sea gas rigs.

The Yare Haven, looking north

The Industrial Port of Great Yarmouth (looking north)

Yet in places the history of the port seeps through, such as with the remains of the dolphins here.

Gorleston Dolphins

Ribs of an old dolphin, fronted by granite boulders, from Scandinavia, with high mica content—hence the glitter.

Yeah, I know, those posts sticking up don’t look a thing like the ribs of a dolphin. Wrong dolphin. In this contest (quote from Wiki):

“A dolphin is a man-made marine structure that extends above the water level and is not connected to shore.

“Typical uses include extending a berth (a berthing dolphin) or providing a point to moor to (a mooring dolphin). Dolphins are also used to display regulatory information like speed limits etc., other information like advertising or directions and navigation information like a day beacon as well as ranges and lighted aids to navigation.

“Mooring dolphins can also be used to ‘cushion’ ship impacts, somewhat similar to fenders.”

These are ‘mooring dolphins’, and their remains can be found, on the Gorleston/Southtown side of the river, from here to beyond Breydon Bridge—where there is actually a modern version in harsh cold metal.

Just before the Yare veers sharply to port to disgorge its turbid waters into the North Sea, there is the Royal National Lifeboat Institution’s station.

RNLI Gorleston Boathouse

Great Yarmouth & Gorleston Lifeboat Station

Since Great Yarmouth and Gorleston share a river it makes sense that they should share a lifeboat. Yet it wasn’t always so. They only merged in 1926.

The Great Yarmouth lifeboat was the earlier, beginning service in 1802. Not that it was called out. In 1825 it was replaced by a boat funded and manned by the Norfolk Association for Saving the Lives of Shipwrecked Mariners. The RNLI took over the station in 1857 and two years later built a new lifeboat house—at a cost of £375, It closed in 1919.

Meanwhile, across the river in Gorleston, the RNLI installed their first lifeboat in 1866. A new boathouse was built in 1881, and two years later a second boathouse was built alongside it. The latter closed in 1926, leaving what is seen today—the boathouse that dates to 1881. The station received its first motor lifeboat in 1921..

The current lifeboat, a Trent class–Samarbeta (Swedish for ‘working together’)—was officially named in 1996 by Princess Alexandra, The Hon Lady Ogilvy.

Gorleston Lifeboat

A Trent-class Lifeboat—as in use at Gorleston
(It proved exceedingly difficult to get a good shot of the Gorleston liefboat so this photo is from Wiki’s Trent-class Lifeboat)

Where the Yare turns to meet the sea it broadens to a pool capable of accommodating a ‘3-point turn’ of the general class of shipping handled at this haven—though it does need the pilot’s service to achieve it without serious damage to harbour walls!

Yare Haven 'pool'

Yare Haven ‘pool’.
Blinded by the sun, I could hardly see the old wooden dolphins on the opposite shore, a reminder of busier days.

And can a port exist without a lighthouse?

Gorleston Lighthouse

Built in 1878, Gorleston lighthouse is 11 metres tall.

While taking that photo I heard behind me the telltale sounds of the pilot’s boat.

Gt Yarmouth & Gorleston Pilot

Gt Yarmouth & Gorleston’s pilot heads out of port.

Though I couldn’t yet see it, I knew that just beyond the harbour’s mouth would be a ship waiting for the pilot to bring her in.

Ship Entering Yare's Mouth

The pilot brings the ship in

By her colours I’m guessing this is a ship of the Putford line, a supply vessel for the North Sea rigs, taking out food and other essentials (replacement tools, DVDs—toilet paper), bringing back various wastes (industrial, organic, human).

Putford Achiever at Yarmouth Harbour

She’s the Putford Achiever.
I love the deep bellied sound of her engines as the water in the ‘pool’ catches and amplifies it. With the bigger ships the ground beneath your feet can noticeably throb along with it.

As I write this (Saturday 27th September), the Achiever is in the North Sea at Latitude 53.36313° / Longitude 2.554912°, at a speed of 2.7 knots, heading 105° towards the Inde Gas Field. Built in 2003, she flies a Cayman Island flag, out of Georgetown; with a gross tonnage of 2018, a length of 70.05 m and breadth of 16 m. Her previous port was Den Helder in Netherlands (on 31st July). Amazing the details we find on the Internet!

Before hitting the beach I walked out to the end of South Pier. Originally built in 1560 by the Dutch engineer Joas Johnson (See A Town Of Three Rivers), it’s now much repaired and strengthened. I’m here to see our White Elephant, aka the Outer Harbour, that adheres to the river’s North Pier, fronting South Denes

Gt Yarmouth's Outer Harbour under construction

Great Yarmouth Outer Harbour under construction (Source: Wikipedia)

Work began in June 2007. The idea was to provide a container and passenger terminal, to compete with Felixstowe, to attract beefier shipping, a return of our North Sea ferry—and ultimately to convince the Ministry of Transport that the A47 really does need to be widened and dual-carriageway constructed. The estimated cost of project was £75m.

So what happened?

Nothing. The Ministry of Transport had said: ‘Show us you have the need of a dual-carriageway for the A47 by showing us the increased traffic.’ The shipping said, ‘Show us first the improved roads.’ Stalemate. Wasted money. The Outer Harbour has never been used. It wouldn’t even pose for a decent photo!

So, I turned back to the beach.

Gorleston Cliffs from south pier

Looking back at Gorleston cliffs from the end of South Pier.
The weather forecast said less than 5% chance of rain. But those clouds you see above the town slowly gathered, and blackened. Humph!

I hit the beach as soon as able. Although Norfolk isn’t as flat as it’s made out to be it doesn’t have high hills (maximum high point is 300’, though that is more or less straight up from the sea); in their absence, beach-walking can’t be bettered for strengthening legs—which is the reason for these walks.

As I crossed Haven Bridge I’d noticed that the tide was high. It now was ebbing, leaving behind a newly-scoured strand dotted with shells and sparkling stones. Most of the stones here came from the Cromer Ridge on the North Norfolk coast. A glacial deposit, though flint and quartz predominates, rarer stones can sometimes be found—jet from Whitby, amber from the Baltic. I’ve picked up several fossils here, and a stone with the Fehu rune pecked on it. Nature’s own script? A Viking stone? Or some modern joker? Who knows. It has pride of place amongst my collection (along with the Mesolithic flint core picked up at West Kennet in Wiltshire).

There’s something about walking along the surf-line, especially when the sea is as placid as it was this day. Yet every so often a wave would crash in and startle me out of my reverie.

Some distance along I suddenly missed what had been a characteristic feature of Gorleston beach—the groynes. They are still there, but only their tops could be seen. It’s fifteen years since I’ve walked this beach; in those years the sand has come along and covered them up, though they still exist further along, at Corton.

Gorleston Groynes

Groynes at Gorleston (sourced from Google Images)
I did take some photos but am ashamed to say there’s not one straight horizon amongst them!

GYBC Polite Notice

GYBC Polite Notice

The Polite Notice gives warning that, should we proceed further along the beach we’re going to be stuck when the tide comes in because, for now, there are no exits off the beach. But that can’t be so; I’ve walked this beach through to Lowestoft many a time. Nope, it can’t be done now. An entire stretch of beach has been closed while sea defences are constructed.

So I took no notice. The tide was going out. I’d keep walking until either I tired (remembering I had yet to walk back) or I encountered said construction work. As it happened, it was something entirely different that caused me to halt and return.

Extreme High Water Mark on Gorleston Beach

An extreme High Water Mark. Notice the bands of pebbles.

For those following Feast Fables, you might remember Kerrid musing on the extreme tides of autumn and spring. The above photo clearly demonstrates it. High tide doesn’t reach this high for the rest of the year. Yet for 2 or 3 days around the equinoctial full moon and again around the new moon, the sea twice a day reaches to here. The abrupt battering is caused by the waves’ undertow. It literally scours the beach.

The stumps you see in the background are all that is visible of the sea defences here (hence the need to renew). Above those stunted remains of the sea defences, are the cliffs. I was hoping to find a recent slippage to show how these cliffs are 100% loose sand but the cliffs didn’t oblige.

Sea Defences at Corton

Farther along — the sea defences as they should be.
The headland in the distance is Lowestoft Ness, the most easterly point in Great Britain.

I don’t know if you can see it clearly on the photo, but after the next groyne the sea comes in—right up to the sea defences. And on the next stretch of beach, beyond the second groyne, the sea was topping those sea defences. I’m not too happy at getting squeezed between crumbling cliffs and the cold North Sea, so I decided now was the time to turn around.

By the time I’d completed the return journey to catch the bus home, I had walked six miles, two-thirds of which was on sand. I was pleased. My legs weren’t hurting, I still had ample energy—though I confess, I didn’t do the dance aerobics, only the weights.

And next week’s walk? Weather permitting, I’m heading inland—to visit a glacial terminal moraine; as featured in this painting . . .

Munnings Ponies

Ponies, by Sir Alfred James Munnings, P.R.A., R.W.S. (1878-1959) (Source: BBC Your Paintings

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Banished. Again.

In the previous episode of Feast Fables two Linershunn men, Tillaïnen (Ardhea’s favourite) and Blakraïen, contested to be the new brenlunen. Blakraïen won. As the new brenlunen his first act is to banish the supposed sky-spirit, Kerrid. Kerrid, sickened by consequences of her interference, readily accepts it. But Ardhea, the Asaric heron, is of an entirely different mind.

Next episode, Eskin Tales, ready now.



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Roots of Rookeri 38

Citadel Lecheni
Sifadis, Shore House Heiress

Week Twenty-Eight

Sifadis looked round as the key clattered against her low, red-wood, table. Beside it, Boddy’s friend Eshe dusted her hands with an air of an important job done.

The woman, confusingly dressed in male garb, had yabbered till her throat must have been raw, enthusing of how great it was to be with someone familiar and how, for the first time since leaving Raselstad, she felt safe. She had told them about Kalamite wanting her dead, “—oh, and yea, could someone run an errand for me, please? Only these pearls must be returned.”

Though Sifadis had listened, her thoughts were on Boddy. So little time left, and what could she do if Breken Lafard passed the death sentence on him. Crud and crusts, why had her lorel-headed lover entered that tower? She couldn’t understand it. And now she was more brittle than Eshe, a keen ear kept for Gowen, dreading the news he might bring.

“Lavish red lafdi,” Jonesi said as Eshe’s monologue ground to an end. He’d already become a precious friend—she hoped this Eshe wouldn’t steal him away. “The longer your ward-holder holds away, the better for us to have our say. And the longer is our Boddy’s trial, the more precious moments for Eshe’s plan to unfurl.”

“Trial?” Sifadis clutched her hands. “It’s no trial—Breken’s chamber isn’t the Law Court. But what does it matter. He trespassed upon the runmen’s tower; now Kalamite will have him dead whatever Breken Lafard might say.”

“It’s true,” Eshe said, head furiously nodding. “But instead of dwelling on that, let’s perfect this plan to save him.”

“Ay, good friend Eshe, let’s,” Sifadis gushed in mimic of Eshe. “So, this key you have, what does it open?”

“It’s a key to the Warison Path.”

Sifadis wanted to laugh. Not only did Eshe, a stranger to Citadel Lecheni, know of a path which she, born to Shore House, hadn’t known until Eshe told her—but, hay la, Eshe had a key to it, too.

“The key is Trefan’s?” Sifadis asked. She frowned. Mayhap this Eshe had made light of what was between her and the lafard-legere’s brother. To show her such secrets, to give her this key; fy and loh, was it a wonder the man was accused. “And what is your proposal? What is its use?” She did hope Eshe would keep it brief.

‘Trefan showed me the cells inside the warison—it’s where they hold traitors. I’ll stake my life, that’s where they’ll put Boddy. Unless, that is, Breken Lafard gives him over to Kalamite.”

“Nay-nix, that such should happen.” Sifadis found the fabric of her silken kirtle to twist. “Nay, it’s best that they find him guilty of treason. At least then we can find him.”

Jonesi agreed. “It might be best, yea. But, newly arrived in this town, how can it be treason? He’s not even a Lecheni citizen.”

Sifadis looked away, mouth twisting in anguish—and regret. “There’s no doubt they’ll find him guilty, Jonesi. Lorken has . . . he has something, evidence, against him.”

That’s why Lorken had been hovering around Gowen. Och! If only she’d realised it sooner. And the thought of Boddy, guilty of treason, thrown into a warison-cell—yet there was hope in that while there was none if Breken gave him to Kalamite. But, by the gods, how many times must she say it: Boddy Rookeri had acted the lorel in straying into the runmen’s tower. What made him do it?

“So what do you propose?” she asked Eshe. “How do we use this key?”

Eshe leaned forward, hands clasped, evidently warming to the subject. Sifadis resisted a roll of her eyes.

“There are no locks on the warison cells. They’re just heavy iron doors with heavy iron bars. And although I shall have to search to find him, once found the rest will be easy. Just wrap him into a cloak and stagger across the close with him. We can pretend we’ve been carousing at the Woolpack Gardens. But the problem is to get into the Woolpack without having to act the stew. And then, hope and hap, that no stew has that room.”

“But is there no other door to the Warison Path?” Jonesi asked while Sifadis nodded, considering the plan.

“There must be, of a certainty, but . . .” Eshe spread her hands, a look of appeal to Sifadis.

“Och, what do I know. I had to be told of the path.”

“It does makes sense that there’s more than two doors,” Jonesi said. “As Eshe says, the warison is used to store food against sieges.”

“I’d say the same,” Eshe said. “But I have the key to only the one.”

“And you say the man Pertho has the bed-chamber keys?” Sifadis asked.

Eshe nodded, her swiftest reply yet.

“Once into the Gardens this should be a breeze.” Jonesi said. “But still, I shall come with you.”

“I shall come too,” Sifadis said—but both Eshe and Jonesi shook their heads at that.

“You need to be here, to wait for Gowen Hadd,” Eshe said. “He may be able to help.”

Nix! She wanted to be the one to rescue Boddy. Hadn’t Boddy rescued her? Now these two would burst through the iron door and he’d be all hugs for Eshe, his dear friend Eshe, and none for her.

Sifadis remembered how his voice had softened with affection whenever he spoke of his friend Eshe. Ay and she remembered the things he had said of her too—that she climbed rocks and delved into caves. She would not have been terrified had Mallen captured her and thrown her into that dark deep pit. ‘My brave girl’, Eshe’s father had said when he spoke of her escape from the bandits. Ay, and she, Disa, ran slap into the bandits and screamed. Ay, of course Eshe must be the one to free him – while she, Disa, sat in this chamber surrounded by her useless wealth, and sobbed.

“It’s getting into the Gardens that will be the most difficult part, and dangerous,” Eshe said. “Kalamite has eyes everywhere, and right now those eyes are looking for me. It was a risk coming into the citadel, even in this guise.”

“Ah,” Jonesi said. “So the disguise is only to trick the eyes.”

“You think I like to dress as a man?”

“Ha.” Jonesi chuckled. “I remember in Raselstad, when you weren’t working, you most often looked like a man.”

“Because I was climbing or caving,” Eshe snapped. “But now I’d like to look like a woman.”

“At least you have the body to dress as a man,” Sifadis said. “When Boddy first saw me he knew at once the deceit.”

“You think I’m happy with that?” Eshe snapped at her.

“I did not mean to offend,” Sifadis said while admitting to herself that that wasn’t entirely the truth.

“You should try being tall and—” Eshe’s hands described the width of her shoulders. “And then to have no—” her hands described her rather flat chest.

“But Trefan likes you,” Sifadis said with no false sincerity.

“Does he? I have not seen him since the debacle.”

“There is likely a reason. If I can discover—”

“Femella. Bel Hade. Excuse,” Jonesi cut in. “We are talking here of saving Boddy Felagi, not of the problems of a being a lafdi.”

Sifadis sat back as if slapped. But his chiding had sparked an idea, the perfect disguise to get Eshe and Jonesi into the Gardens. She laughed at the absurdity of it. It would amuse Boddy as well.

“Why did I not think! You two can play the husband and wife. You are visiting Citadel Lecheni to view the exotic Daabian plants that our Sivator fattens in the Tower garden. Many folk do, so it is believable. I can provide clothes for you. Lah! See, it is done and my Boddy is saved.”

“Saved by his beloved Daabian plants,” Jonesi said and laughed along with her.

Ay, but still she wished she could go with them. She dreaded what news Gowen would bring. Though what could be worse than death?

“Loh, you must come with me to my father’s chamber.” She was already on her feet.

And once Boddy was saved—if they could do it—she would tell him everything—everything. Though she feared what he’d say now his delightful helpful brave friend Eshe was here.

Boteras Rookeri-Sharmin
aka Boddy

Boddy woke with a start to the harsh scrape of metal. The cell dimly lit by Stheino’s blush, it was night—and this was the visit he’d been expecting. He looked at his hands. Could he use them to kill?

The door grated open.

He stood with his back sealed against the stone wall. He couldn’t see the man well but he saw the plaits, the sparkles, the shimmer of silk. This wasn’t one of the holden; as predicted, this was Breken. Yet for a moment he was undecided. To kill the lafard-legere: what butchery then might they inflict on his corpse? Would Disa still be able to claim it, or would they withhold it from her? But the thought of the assault the lafard intended—he flew, hands closing around the man’s throat,. He found the larynx. He pressed hard upon it.

Natzo, Breken wasn’t alone! Hands were pulling at Boddy—yet no one was punching. Someone was shouting—yet shouting softly, like a stage whisper.

It was around about then that he realised the larynx didn’t feel right. It was too small, too soft; this wasn’t a man.

“Boddy Felagi,” a hushed voice shouted, “let go of her!”

Spew on it, man, now he was totally confused. He released the grip—and saw now the man’s plaits were dark not blond. Yeah zo, the wrong man!

Then to complete the confusion the one who’d yelled at him wasn’t a man but a woman. Was it Disa? Yet that shout had definitely sounded male. Then he saw the nose. Yeah zo, he knew that nose!


But if this was Jonesi, who was the man he’d been trying to strangle? Whoever it was, he now was slumped in the straw, choking and coughing.

“Nice greeting,” said a hoarse voice.

“It’s Eshe,” Jonesi said.

“Natzo! Spew on it, man, I’d not have done that.”

He was down on the floor, his arms around her, rocking, apologising. She struggled and tried to bat him away.

“Ghats, but I thought you were Breken.”

“Leisan,” she croaked. “From Citadel Dief. Meet my wife, Shey.”

“Wife?” So Boddy wasn’t mistaken; Jonesi was wearing a dress.

“We’re here to see the exotic plants,” Jonesi explained.

“We’re lodging at the Woolpack Gardens,” Eshe said while rubbing her throat. “The inn has a door to the Warison Path.”

“So, up on your feet, Boddy, you,” Jonesi said. “Friends Jonesi and Eshe are to your rescue.”

“Natzo!” Boddy said. “Eshe, Jonesi, I’m glad that you’ve come. But natzo, no rescue. That’s not the way to it. Though . . . can you get a message to Disa?”

“Yea,” Eshe said. “But what do you mean no? You can’t let them kill you.”

“Yeah, great, fine,” Boddy agreed. “And neither will they—cos a person can only die the once. Look, just tell Disa to claim my body. Yeah? You can get a message to her?”

“Sure,” Eshe said. “She provided the clothes.”

“And made me be the woman,” Jonesi unhappily said.

“And very sweet you look, too,” Boddy said with a tweak of his cheek. “Hey, Ghats, Friend Jonesi, I’ve just noticed!” Jonesi’s beard had always been scant yet he’d managed to grow it enough for chin-plaits—which, unfortunately gave him slight Rothi cast. “You’ve shaved off your plaits.”

“Don’t mention it,” Jonesi said with a forced nonchalant shrug. “These things I do for you, and now you say you don’t want the rescue? Boddy Felagi, explain.”

“I appreciate your efforts, but listen. What’s likely to follow when they find the cell empty? They’ll turn the citadel upside down trying to find me. And that Kalamite, the whim-wham, he’s got it in for me, he’ll never let up.”

“It’s true, Jonesi. Boddy’s right,” Eshe said “—though we were going to sneak you out through the gates as a wobbling wancolled drunkard.”

“Yeah, great, fine, good plan. But then I can never return.”

“You mean for Disa?” Eshe said.

“Yea, I’m not leaving without her. Either we’re here together or . . . or I guess we’re some place else, together.”

“And she wants that?” Eshe asked.

“Yeah, she wants it,” Jonesi answered for Boddy.

“But you’ve found her?” Boddy asked, his excitement rekindled.

Jonesi nodded. “I’ll forgive that you haven’t been listening.”

“So what is your plan?” Eshe pressed. “Only the longer we stand here talking . . . you know.”

Yeah zo, had he upset Eshe by refusing her help? She sounded aggrieved. Or was it because he’d mistakenly strangled her? But she was right, this was no time for chatting.

“If I’m already dead they can’t kill me again. Yeah? And Disa, as my wife, can claim my body.”

“Your . . . wife. And when did this happen?” Eshe asked.

Boddy grinned. “Just now, in my head. Eshe, can you write out some legal-looking document that says Sifadis and I were wed in Raselstad? Yea, yea, yea, I know, all marriages are registered in Deluca’s shrine-book. But with us then intending to leave for Rothi . . . you get what I mean? And ask Disa for a time when she was away from her henchmen so they can’t testify to the contrary.”

“Yea, sure I can do it but—”

“Trust me, Eshe. Just make sure Disa comes to see her husband before Breken’s breakers come for me. Yezzzah, it’ll work so much better this way—though zillions of thanks for trying to rescue me. Oh, and tell her that Breken intends to question her. She’s to tell him—and Gowen—that we’re married.”

“Yea, I’ll tell her, but . . . why? I mean, why the marriage?” Eshe asked.

“To void Lorken’s account. Perhaps he’d been prompted by another. Or maybe he simply misunderstood what he saw. Either way he’s told Breken he caught me raping Sifadis. But Jonesi will vouch for me, it wasn’t like that. Ghats and rats, Eshe, you know me, I never would. Natzo! So, be gone now—but, hey, Jonesi, do you still have the book?”

Jonesi nodded.

“Great, wicked, yeah.”

Jonesi squinted, head atilt.

“Well you never know, do you. Keep it safe, hey. And shut that wretched door behind you.”


Keefer-Papa of the Runman Order

Ale-lai, the rapturous union! Again and again, the ecstatic pulses scoured his body, drawing from him five—aiy, five—of his heart-formed offerings, while she enveloped him and he bore into her and . . . And even then she wouldn’t release him but held him firmly, their limbs entwined, flesh to flesh. Though, lah, she must have known he was now exhausted and could give her no more. Yet they communed—aiya, they communed—she with her sole surviving son. And, aiya, what inspiration his lover, his mother, his queen did give him. And was it a wonder, when his queen’s and his own protector, Svara, was in such a close and sweet alignment with expansive, well-wishing Dizpeter. Aiy, Dizpeter had well-wished him and drenched him in sweat.

He was reluctant to leave her, though, aiy, he must if he was to start this final act of completion. Three had returned who ought to be dead and there still was the spy. But he’d not realised how long he had been in his queen’s tower. Loh, how delicate Stheino’s blush, touching with pink the citadel Houses beneath him. He crossed the walkway, the wind snapping his coat, stinging his legs like a good father whipping him. Aiy-lai, exhilarating! He lingered there, the better to savour it.

Verily, Dizpeter, a bountiful day—though the day itself belonged to Stup the Destroyer.

The close was deserted but for the holden patrolling. Too early yet for the franyans to be reeling, sated upon their stew-house pleasures. But that pleased him. Keefer of the Runman Order, yet the grasslings mocked him when they ought to prostrate themselves before him. Why did they not see the treasure they had in Runman House. The begrudging upstarts, put a jewel upon them and they believe themselves someone.

He entered the House. At the base of the swoop of stairs hung the summoning bell-rope. As he passed it he tugged on it, progressing then to the inner chamber, the most hallowed fane. He threw the switches to the Mathon-lamps—unusual for him, but this evening he felt the need of light. He waited, then, for his sprats to come running. It wasn’t yet late, yet some came with sleep-encrusted eyes.

“Runmen,” —aiya, so few of them now. He addressed them as his queen, his lover, as Rubel, had told him, “I am leaving.”

He allowed them their glances, one to another: their puzzled, bemused—and one undisguised hopeful—frowns.

“Aiy, I am leaving. And when I return it shall be with more sprats. You could say I’m going fishing. And for that I shall need a boat.”

He chuckled at their puzzlement; some showed alarm: What, their Keefer out on the water?

“Our queen—” how he hated to share her with them “—our red beaded lafdi tells me I must visit around the citadels. To call upon our dependant Houses. To net the best of their sprats. She says to start at Citadel Fonshtok.” It was the most northerly. Beyond it only the Eshqua herders existed. “Thus I shall sail to there upon the Sarak Sea.”

“Papa Leef, with respect,” Ffika Runman said. “I fear for your safety. A winter spent upon the sea?”

Ale-la, he ought to have known it would be Ffika who’d find something to pick on—though he had expected the sprat-grown-to-a-cod to pick on his use of ‘Sarak Sea’. It ought more correctly be the Yemure off the headland at Citadel Fonshtok.

“Ffika Runman, your concern in noted, but allow me to know more of the sea than do you. Only in summer does the sea suffer the whirling winds from the south—and they, infrequent. Now, I shall sail as far north as Citadel Fonshtok, and thence progress across Rothi Plain. Unneeded to say, I shall be away for some time. Thus I need someone to act in my stead. You, Ffika Runman.”

Lah, how red the sprat’s face! Aiy, with his smartly tailored Stup-day coat he looked like one of those ourali-skinned torpydoes. But, deuces, allow him his short season of pleasure—thereafter the torpydo would be dead, as she, Rubel, his mother, his lover, his queen, had requested. In the meantime, who else amongst the sprats could serve as Keefer? Certainly not Honning, and the remaining others were even less able.

“Now, Ffika—you with your abundant contacts—you I entrust with whatever the needed arrangements. I shall, of course, require a boat. You will, of course, purchase it for me. And since I intend this venture alone, you will also find a seaman able to train me in all I should know. There is ample time—you have two weeks before I go.”

“But, Papa Hadd, with respect, the eclipse . . .? I’ve heard seaman say high tides are expected, such as we’ve never seen them before. All are afeared to venture out until it’s over and the tides are settled again. The common jaw has it the spit could be clean washed away. It will certainly be covered.”

“Aiy, Ffika Runman, as I am aware. But before us is the ocean firth, and until the eclipse it remains safely held in earthen arms. It is sufficient for me to venture upon while I grasp the rudiments of sailing—providing you choose for me a good steersman as teacher. Hush and peace, Ffika Runman, I do not intend to begin my mission until this eclipse is run.”

Nix, never, not, for Kalamite had another use for that boat before the eclipse was done. He chuckled to himself—aiya, and let the sprats make what they would of that. What a drip-headed jert, the lafard-legere, to accept the Sivator’s spin. Sitting proud upon his legere-chair, content now that he had the usurper. Duh! But let him believe that was the predicted event. Kalamite knew better, he knew the truth.

But first, the usurpers’ eggers and backers were still roaming the close. They must be dealt with—something he would handle himself.

~ ~ ~

Roots of Rookeri 39: 30th September

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A Town Of Three Rivers

or Continuing The Good Work

(see Mixed Blessings of a Winter Bug)

So, yea, last week I managed to walk six miles (see Marriott Way). But that’s nothing compared with the fifteen miles plus that used to be my staple before CFS brought eight years of enforced couch-hibernation, and I’m determined to return to my former performance.

The trouble is my leg muscles have so atrophied that it’s going to take some concentrated work. The dance aerobics, brisk supermarket walks and weight training might help with the toning but I need endurance training too, and the occasional six mile walk doesn’t answer. So, I’ve worked out a training schedule—unfortunately, weather dependant.

I shall get out there for a weekly walk. To push beyond my present capacity is self-defeating as it creates unnecessary physical stress, so I shall start with a target of four to six miles. When the four to six miles becomes a doddle, then I’ll increase it to six to eight. And up it, and up it. By next spring I should be doing ten miles at least without it crucifying me.

To keep me interested, I’m going to reclaim my old hobby of photography—I may as well since the phone comes with me. Okay, it’s only a basic phone with a basic camera but, who knows, some nice person might get me a decent digi-camera for Christmas. If not, I guess I’ll invest in one before next summer. I used to be a keen photographer, if somewhat click-happy—I went through 2 x 36 exposure films (remember them?) in just one of the Cheddar gorge caves!

So now, after a far longer pre-amble than intended . . . this week’s walk.

Map: Great Yarmouth Detail & Overview

Great Yarmouth: Overview and Detail
showing places mentioned

I’ve titled this post the A Town of Three Rivers, though technically it’s only two rivers—the Yare, for which the town is named, and the Bure—which is the focus of this week’s walk. The third river is the Waveney which, along with the Yare, flows into Breydon Water—a hint of which is just visible beneath the bridge (photo below). Breydon Water is all that remains of the ‘Great Estuary’. Effectively blocked by the sand bar which became Great Yarmouth (as I think the map above shows), Breydon now exists as tidal mudflats, a Mecca for ornithologists in spring and autumn as it’s on the migration route of many wetland birds.

Vauxhall Footbridge

 The newly restored Vauxhall Bridge, now restricted to foot traffic.
At one time it was the main access from Norwich into Great Yarmouth.
A new ‘road bridge’ across the River Bure was built in 1972.

The town being built at the mouth of the former ‘Great Estuary’, every way in, and out, of the town requires a bridge crossing—except north via Caister but that’s a post-thirteenth century development.

Haven Bridge (of which there’s been 3 versions) crosses the Yare.

Old Haven Bridge c.1800

Haven Bridge – c. 1800 (source: Broadlandmemories)

Haven Bridge modern

Haven Bridge – the modern (source: Broadlandmemories)

Until 1845 the Bure was crossed by the ‘Suspension Bridge’. But in 1845 the Suspension Bridge collapsed with great loss of life. Vauxhall Bridge was constructed in 1848 to replace it. A bridge here was essential as it carried not only for traffic from Norwich but also passengers heading to and from the newly opened Vauxhall Station (1844), as well as (later) a tram.

River Bure 1

River Bure, heading northward.

The River Bure rises fifty miles from Great Yarmouth, at Melton Constable. It is navigable for its last thirty miles, i.e. from Coltishall Bridge to Yarmouth. It has two major tributaries, so close they trip over each other—the Ant and the Thurne (See Map above). But I’m heading only as far as ‘Grubbs Haven’ which was the alleged outlet of the Bure until 1346 (but more about havens later).

Although Grubbs Haven isn’t marked on any extant map it’s easy to guess its approximate location as it formed the boundary between Yarmouth and Caister (i.e. Caister-on-Sea).

Caister is named for its Roman fort, though the site wasn’t found and excavated until 1950. Built around 200 CE, the fort served as home to army and navy. However, during its excavation certain items were recovered which made the archaeologists wonder at its military identity. The first building uncovered included a hypocaust and painted wall plaster and female jewellery. It was suggested the building was either an officer’s house, or a ‘seaman’s hostel’ (euphemism for brothel). The site was abandoned around 370-390 CE. South of the site 150 Saxon burials have been found, dating to the Middle Saxon period (650-850 CE). The remains of the fort (basically the barracks’ foundations) are open to the public—for free. I do like those words

But, back to town . . .

North West Tower

The North-West Tower – once part of the town wall

Considering how much bombing the town suffered during WWII, an amazing amount of the old walls still stand. Originally nearly a mile long, the wall had ten gates and fifteen towers. The town was licensed to build its own wall and ditch by grant of Henry III in 1260, although work didn’t begin until around 1280. It then took 126 years to complete, the work delayed by the ravages of the great plague of 1349.

The wall was important, not just for defence but also for kudus. A walled town shouted of wealth, and during the medieval period Yarmouth bred rich merchants like other towns bred beggars. It was ideally situated, the North Sea allowing direct access to the Low Countries and those of the Baltic; the Bure, Yare and Waveney provided a network of waterways for shipping imported wares throughout Suffolk and Norfolk, including Norwich, itself once the rival of London.

But the town’s location wasn’t its only asset. In 1208 King John had granted the town a charter—he was trying to raise cash (he was always trying to raise cash, basically because his ‘big brother’ Richard the Lionheart had scraped the bottom of England’s coffers ). Amongst other liberties and privileges, the charter accorded the burgesses of Yarmouth the right to tax all incoming and outgoing cargos, and to use the income to swell their own coffers (oops, I mean the town’s coffers). As a busy port, this was tantamount to telling the merchants to mint their coin. Needless to say, the neighbours were jealous. There began a feud with Little Yarmouth (across the Yare, now called Southtown) which still was raging in the sixteenth century.

Of course, such privileges came at a cost. In return for these ‘liberties’, once a year the town was to send to the sheriff of Norwich 100 herrings baked in 24 pasties. The sheriff of Norwich was then to deliver these tasty pasties to the nearby King’s manor of East Carlton for the steward in turn to deliver to the King. (For more on the Charter—including a modern translation, see great-yarmouth.gov.uk)

Leaving the Old Town, I was surprised at how many Broads’ cruisers were moored at the Yacht Station this late in the season. I started off counting them but after two dozen gave up. O wanted to be away from there. I’d started out early—while the holidaymakers were still breakfasting. The smell of their crispy bacon was beginning to get to me.

Gt Yarmouth Yacht Station

Great Yarmouth Yacht Station
Yarmouth isn’t really part of the Broads, but sitting on the junction of the three Broads’ rivers, at the height of the season it’s a busy junction.

Converted Houseboat

Broads’ cruisers aren’t the only craft moored here. This coastal tramp has been converted to houseboat. Even within the last 30 years small ships like this would coast between Yarmouth and (e.g.) Wells with cargos of fertiliser and wood.

One of the great things about living in a small town, is how soon you can be away from the traffic, the noise, the fumes, and into tranquillity. This is something I’ve really missed during the years of enforced hibernation.

River Bure With Bird

Sky, river, marsh, and not much else.
You can get an idea of how flat the land in a photo like this.

By now I was walking right on the river’s edge. Since I have a skewy sense of balance (damage to semicircular canals courtesy of labyrinthitis a few years back) I needed my full attention on walking. I slipped the phone into my bag—I didn’t want to lose it into the water—until I’d reached destination. It wasn’t yet 10:00 am, yet it was getting hot. It’s real screwy weather we’ve been having this month.

Bure Park

Bure Park—alias Grubbs Haven

I took several photos here, but this best captures the sense of space. The trees, white poplars, track along the river. I’ve had to adjust the intensity and the contrast otherwise the white of the leaves make them appear as ghost trees. Unfortunately, I’ve also drained the sky.

Bure Park covers 40 acres of what, until the end of World War II, was everybody’s dumping ground. In fact there’s a story of American airmen based some place near here who, rather than ship surplus equipment back to the States, buried it in crates across this waste land. The borough council subsequently tidied the area—which basically meant moving earth from A to B in an attempt to cover the debris and level the site. However, whatever the buried material, it’s gradually decaying, causing subsidence, so every winter large areas of the park flood. It’s only ankle deep, and it does attract wildfowl, so who’s complaining. For the rest of the year it’s the favourite haunt of dog owners. There’s also a Pitch and Putt course (if you want golf, you have to cross river to Gorleston—‘the posh resort’).

Throughout the centuries the profile of Yarmouth has continually changed. Until 1346, the town with its grazing lands, North and South Denes, was an island, separated from its northern neighbour, Flegg Island, by the outflow of the Bure, variously known as Cockle Water or Grubbs Haven. Though no physical evidence of this remains it has been mentioned by several writers. The following snippets I found on Norfolk Heritage website:

In 1599 Thomas Nashe (an Elizabethan pamphleteer) wrote that “some visible apparent tokens remain of a haven” . . .

In 1619 Henry Manship (town clerk 1579-85) recorded: “many Hundred Years past it hath dammed up the Mouth of the river or Channel which passed forth on the North said of Yermouth” . . .

Furthermore, according to Manship, Sir Robert Paston levelled the dunes on the site of Grubb’s Haven for the visit of Queen Elizabeth in 1578. (The Pastons were a Norfolk family whose letters provide a unique resource for social historians of Tudor period.)

Quoting direct from Norfolk Heritage:

Grubb’s Haven is reputed to lie with its centreline ¼ mile north of the Midsands Cross, and was reputed to be the northernmost boundary of Yarmouth.”

The Midsands Cross lies opposite Bure Park. Between 1299 and 1523 the land to the north of this cross was the subject of several court cases, mostly in regard to cattle grazing.

However, I am confused by a passage I found on gtyarmouth.co.uk in reference to this early harbour. The author claims that ships pulling into the Bure would then unload at Kings Quay by the Conge. But the Conge, the oldest settled part of the town, is directly opposite Vauxhall Bridge. Yet the Bure wasn’t yet passing by there. Puzzlement.

Great Yarmouth Heritage Map

This odd looking map by cartographer Thomas Damet (Elizabethan MP for Yarmouth) is oriented upside down and back to front. (South is up, with East to the left.) Despite being produced in C15th, it is reputed to show Great Yarmouth in 1000 CE.
I would say it’s rather extreme, that by 1000 CE much of the Great Estuary was already salt marsh used, as it is today, for seasonal grazing

In 1346 sand was shifted by a howling north-east wind, sufficient to block the Bure and “firm land was made between Yarmouth and Caister”. This forced shipping to use the Yare which at the time went out several miles south of its present exit—closer to Lowestoft that to Yarmouth.

The merchants with their captains complained and the First Haven was cut—closer to Yarmouth, but it still halfway to Lowestoft.

The First Haven didn’t last long—26 years. As with the Bure’s mouth, it too was blocked when a strong north-east wind moved the sand.

In 1393 a Second Haven was cut, this time much closer to Yarmouth—close by Gorleston.

Alas, the north-east winds did blow, and this Second Haven was choked with wind-blown sand. (Set this to music, you could use this as the refrain!)

In 1408 a Third Haven was cut—”where ye Pole stands by Loestof’” (no explanation is given of this, but from 1385 to 1444 the de la Pole family provided the Earls of Suffolk. Loestof = Lowestoft). This Third Haven was maintained “at great charge” until again the east winds did blow.

In 1508 a Fourth Haven was cut. But again, the east winds did blow.

In 1529 a Fifth Haven was cut. But again, the east winds did blow.

In 1549 a Sixth Haven was cut, this by the town’s South Gate. But the work was cut short and destroyed by the dastardly activities of Robert Kett and his rebels who, most unreasonably and inconsiderately, had taken up their pitchforks and scythes to complain of the increasing enclosure of Common Land. Tut-tut, whatever next, the ungrateful vermin.

In 1560—a date that all Yarco Bloaters really ought to celebrate—the present, and Seventh Haven was cut, at about 1 mile south of the town. This was the work of a Dutch engineer, one Joas Johnson. Over the years there has been various improvements, mostly to strengthen the banks—and to keep the sand out!

For those with an interest in such things, a full account is given on www.gtyarmouth.co.uk

I took a break at Bure Park—mostly because I needed to spend a penny (British euphemism for ‘to pee’, from days when it cost a penny to use a public toilet), and those at Bure Park’s ‘Pitch and Putt’  are not unlocked until 10:00 am. I then turned around and walked home.

I was perhaps a mile off completion when my legs decided they’d prefer not to go any farther. Oh no, I told them, you’re not getting away with that. I put on a spurt. I’ve found that by pushing myself I can more easily cover the distance—unfortunately, there’s then a tendency to stretch already overworked muscles and tendons. No surprise, then, to find myself with tender calves the next day—yet I managed the brisk supermarket walk. That was yesterday. Today the legs are fine. I’m fine. I feel good for having achieved target.

The question is now, where is next week’s walk to be? I haven’t yet decided. For a while I want to keep the walks fairly close to home—the chopping and changing of buses, the hectic city streets, the long journey home when I just want to flake out . . . not so conducive to an enjoyable day.

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The Little Wren’s Fire

The Little Wren and the Stolen Fire is an Eskin fable mentioned briefly in this week’s episode of Feast Fables. I’d wanted to include it in full, but couldn’t justify the break in the flow. So I’m posting it here, instead.


Long, long ago, before humans walked the world, Ershe the Sun had two children. The elder-born was a daughter who for her shape took the form of a Hare. The younger-born was a son. He remained ever a shape-shifter, never able to decide what to be.

At first, not long after he was born, Ershe’s son decided he’d take the shape of a Wren. Wrens could fly, which meant he could visit Ershe his mother the Sun, up in the sky.

Up-up-up Little Wren flew, high into the sky. He liked it there, so warm next to Ershe’ heart—so light. Down there on the Earth it was cold and dark.

Little Wren didn’t think, Little Wren acted. He waited until Ershe wasn’t watching. Then he stole some of her fire and flew away down with it.

When Ershe discovered the theft she grew angry. “Wait till I catch hold of you. I’ll roast you with that fire that you’ve taken from me.”

Hearing his mother’s threat, Little Wren hid himself away where Ershe never would find him.

It was early the next morning before Ershe realised she no more could see Little Wren. Where was he? She went in search of him.

She travelled from east to west. She travelled from north to south—and back again. But Ershe couldn’t find Little Wren anywhere.

She called for her elder-born daughter, the Hare, and told her that Little Wren couldn’t be found. Ershe said she was concerned for Little Wren’s safety. Would the Hare help her search for him? To which, of course, the Hare agreed.

So off went the Hare in search of Little Wren. From dawn to dusk the Hare searched for him, but nowhere could she find him. Like her mother Ershe, she was worried for her young brother’s safety—so much that she couldn’t sleep. And so, when the night came, still the Hare searched. She quartered the Earth but nowhere did she find Little Wren.

The Hare was beginning to tire. She had travelled all over the Earth, running up every hill, and down into the vales. She had searched every river—she’d even searched under the sea. But she had found no sign of him. She feared he’d been taken by the Evil One.

The Hare then came to a cave. Though it was dark, she knew the cave was there for a light shone from within it. The Hare was curious. How had her mother Ershe’s light gotten inside of there? So, of course, off she went inside to look.

And who did she find there? None other but her young brother, Little Wren.

The Hare wanted to tell her mother Ershe straight away that she’d found Little Wren, for she knew Ershe was worried for him. But before she could call out to Ershe, Old Mother Earth—whose cave it was and who had heard their voices—asked them who they were, and what they were doing in her cave.

The Hare answered saying she was elder-born daughter of Ershe the Sun, and with her was her young brother Little Wren.

Old Mother Earth was pleased that her grandchildren had come to visit her. She asked them if they had come there for a purpose.

Little Wren, seeing a way of avoiding his mother’s ire, quickly answered, “We’ve come to bring you a gift.” And he showed her the fire.

Old Mother Earth was so pleased with the gift she decided to give her grandchildren a gift each in return.

To the Hare she gave renewing life, so no matter the killing cold of winter—caused by Ershe ignoring her children and travelling south—she would be born again with every spring.

To Little Wren she gave his mother’s placenta, the copper stone, so he never would be without fire.


It was the call of the wren inspired the tale: it sounds exactly like two flints chipping together to make fire.

And though Little Wren steals the fire, he’s not to be mistaken with the Fire Wren (or Fire Crest). In the British Isles these are two distinct birds with different calls and different habitats, one migratory, the other resident. They’re even of different sizes. I was once called upon to rescue a Fire Wren, blown off course during migration. It was no bigger than a cotton-wool ball in my hand, its heart furiously thumping. A moment always remembered.

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