Monday, 28 January 2013
A WHISTLE-STOP TOUR OF MODERN NORWICH
Having spent the best part of my life living in & around the fine city of Norwich, on Saturday I decided to take a whistle-stop tour of the old girl, in the old girl, whilst the old girl played ponies back at the homestead.
I chose my moment carefully.
The snow that had ground Norwich to a complete skid-pan had thawed, and the Canaries were playing host to the only non-league side left in the FA Cup competition. Knowing that the agitprop poet Helen Ivory was away from the country, thoughts of any disturbance were quelled, and I aimed to hit the 'Big Sugarbeet' around 2pm, just as the hordes of Luton Town fans goose-stepped their way from their collection of illegally-parked delivery vans.
To be fair to the miscreants, the queues for the John Lewis, Castle Mall and Chapelfield car-parks were so long, the visiting supporters must've thought they were in Lakeside Thurrock;
and no doubt many of them took full advantage of the post-Xmas post-NewYear sales-lull SALES- events that were happening in every cloned outlet, from Monsoon to Oasis; from Matalan to TK Maxx. Post-Snowmageddon panic-buying had evolved into a slightly uglier style of consumerism.
As I dawdled in first gear for what seemed like an hour (but was in fact an hour & a half), I began to mentally note all the changes that had occurred in the city of my alma mater.
Ber St, once notorious for it's post-pub activity, had risen from the ashes of a car-dealer nightmare, and was now akin to a micro China Town, bustling with tea-houses, Asian grocers and martial arts centres.
The gaps that were once empty shops, were now filled with tanning lounges, hairdressers, nail polishers and more tanning lounges.
But the queue for the John Lewis car-park was as long as ever.
4x4's and Lexi belching their way to a safe spot underneath their retail nirvana, holding the duality of traffic-flow to ransom, with width and power and ignorance.
Yet the Anglia Square car park still had 480 spaces, and was only a short walk from anywhere.
I was happy to find that the City Gates pub had been put to sleep.
Students at UEA were often told that Norwich had "a church for every week of the year, and a pub for every day". During my time at the University of Exaggerated Abbreviations I found this not to be true.
But what I did discover was that the city had more Wetherspoon's per capita than any other town in the UK.
The fact that the former JDW City Gates' building had been re-invented as an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet, ladled irony onto my sticky rice in heaps.
As I passed the monolithic building that once housed 'the old model shop', I couldn't help thinking that a lot of this change was probably for the best.
The queue for bespoke coffee and naff Neff, smug Smeg and Moben design, was populated by men who shouldn't be wearing skinny-fit jeans, and their girlfriends who shouldn't encourage them.
But there was a middle class defiance in their queueing, that said more about Norwich than the gas-guzzling numpties that stalked Ber St.
If it really is the 'economy stupid', then we probably need these affluent foot-soldiers and their disposable income now, more than ever.
As I went around the confusing Anglia Square one-way system, I noticed that in amongst all the building-sites and new development, the independent shoe shop in Edward St.was still open, defiantly opposing so-called progress, with less than three pairs of shoes in its window, and one of them a pair of classic cherry red DMs.
The smile and the warmth this gave me were only lost when I turned onto St.Augustine's St. and was confronted by a huge billboard advertising "PMT - Let's Rock!"
I sincerely hope PMT is an acronym for something far removed from its common acronym usage.
But then, Norwich folk are a funny old bunch.
**I would really like to know the name of the shop in Edward St. if anyone has it? I know there was a similar shoe-shop in St.Augustine's called 'Yallops'. Not sure if it's still there.