I went out a couple of days this week just gone, Tuesday in King’s Lynn and Hunstanton, Wednesday in Norwich and Great Yarmouth.
Some word snapshots for the internet family album.
ONE: I haven’t been to Hunstanton since last October. It looked very different from my last visit, with the Oasis Leisure Centre having sprouted what appears to be a colonnade style extension. They now have an ice rink according to the sign outside, which I’m sure wasn’t there before, but I could be wrong as I’ve never set foot inside the place. The way they bandy about words like ‘exercise’ and ‘healthy’ in their advertising puts me off.
TWO: Only a few seagulls in evidence, the majority presumably borne inland on the very high wind (apart from the wind it was a borderline idyllic day), but I did get stalked by a couple of ducks, one male and one female. Sat on one side of the Royal Green eating chilli flavoured tortilla crisps, and the female perched right in front of me with imploring eyes. I felt so self-conscious that I moved right across to the other side of the Green and reseated, only to find that the damned ducks followed me. I wasn’t sure if tortilla crisps would agree with them, but even if I had been I’m not the sort of person who shares. Hey, do I go grabbing their worms?
THREE: A long walk along the clifftops to the ruins of St Edmund’s Chapel, where they’ve put up a wooden statue of a wolf, the effect somewhat marred by the fact that a bird has shit right in its eye. Even wolves have to suffer such indignities. Back in the Boston Square Sensory Garden I diverted myself by jumping up and down on the planks surrounding the rock pool, which during the height of the summer season would have had the effect of activating fountains but today did nothing except make me feel slightly silly and impotent. Some guys lying on the grass and drinking beer from tins seemed to find it amusing.
FOUR: Back at King’s Lynn Arts Centre, two of the galleries were closed, but the other two were showing Star Wars and Me. I have to admit I’m not a big fan of George Lucas’ stellar franchise, but all the same it felt wonderful to stand in a room where the walls were hung with Star Wars posters from around the world and the display cabinets were stuffed with a wealth of toys, books and other memorabilia. There were life size cutouts of all the main characters, including Princess Leia in her harem girl outfit (and yes, you can read something into the fact that she’s the only one I mention by name). Until seeing this show I hadn’t realised quite how much Star Wars has permeated popular culture. It made me feel nostalgic for the toys and books I had as a child, and slightly jealous of the next generation or so who got to play with all this wonderful Star Wars stuff. I had farm animals, tractors and toy soldiers, which can’t quite compare to a light sabre or Imperial Walker.
FIVE: The weather started out nice enough in Yarmouth, even though it was raining en route, but then after an hour or so the sky went dark in a manner intimidating enough to put me off taking my customary long beach walk. I contented myself with a short walk that took me under one pier and up and down another, stopping off at sundry points in-between.
SIX: Both Yarmouth and Hunstanton have crazy golf courses with a pirate theme. In Yarmouth all the pirates appeared to be male, divided evenly between older jack tars and Johnny Depp/Jack Sparrow lookalikes. In Hunstanton there were women pirates, swinging from ropes and swashing buckles alongside the men, though the acres of cleavage on display made me think that equality and presenting ‘positive’ female role models wasn’t the main concern. I’d quite like to be a pirate, aside from all the hard work with ships and fighting people. Basically I suppose I’d be happy to lay in a hammock swigging rum all day and talk funny. Yeah, that’s about the sum of it.
SEVEN: The highlights of my Yarmouth adventure were chips off the market drenched in chilli con carne and finding a DVD of Brimstone and Treacle going for only 99p in That’s Entertainment. I’m easily pleased.
EIGHT: At the Forum in Norwich there was an exhibition of what they referred to as 3D Art, though you and I probably know it as sculpture. Okay, I’m distorting the facts for comedic effect. While there were a few sculptures – and very good ones too -the majority of the show consisted of paintings where parts of the surface were raised to give what I considered a very naff 3D effect. They were okay, pleasing shapes and blends of colour, but nothing to make you think that Damien Hirst or Jake and Dinos have anything to worry about as regards the competition. Back in the 80s I took part in an art show with some friends, and one of the exhibits we came up with was a 3D version of Roy Lichtenstein’s Whaam!, using an Airfix model kit so that the plane protruded from the canvas. Unfortunately we didn’t use very good glue, and every so often the plane’s fuselage would drop off. Yeah, well. Art’s loss is literature’s gain, or something to that effect.
NINE: Highlight of the day, meeting a friend and going to the Theatre Royal for a performance of Starlight Express. This is the third time I’ve seen the show, the second time at the Royal and previously in London. For the London show the performers enact the various race scenes by skating round the theatre on specially installed ramps, but obviously that’s impractical for a touring production, so we got to wear 3D glasses and view the action on a screen, with the occasional object flying out at us, which wasn’t quite as effective as it could have been (I only had to resist the impulse to duck once). There were some good songs, culminating in the wonderful mega-mix at the end, with the whole cast on stage and whooping it up with a party atmosphere. I don’t think this show is about the music though so much as the audacity and chutzpah involved in building the story round rivalry among trains, steam vs diesel vs electric (nowadays it would probably be about computers with desktops, laptops and tablets etc). Bottom line, it’s a spectacle, with lavish costumes, pulse pounding soundtrack and dazzling light display, performers on skates, blasts of steam, moments of nostalgia and humour, such as the hilarious C&W variation ‘U-N-C-O-U-P-L-E-D’. The plot was, of course, ludicrous, with steam train Rusty winning the race and a subtext about the undesirability of progress (all the modern trains want to be converted to steam at the end), but that’s beside the point. Oh, and call me churlish, but I didn’t buy into the romance between Rusty and Pearl, who first deserts him to ride with Electro and then does the dirty on her friend Dinah to link up with Greaseball (the woman is manipulative, and Rusty could have done much better). Anyway, I had a great time, and in the end that’s all that counts, because it really is all about me, so there.