Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Return to norwich - week one

The place I’m staying in Norwich is pretty shabby, but for forty dollars a night, I’m not complaining. Every door has a sticker on it welcoming you to the Beeches Bar and Restaurant, and the other night I went out in search of this fabled eatery. I wandered around in vain for about ten minutes before finding an employee smoking on some steps. She informed me there is no such place, and the stickers should’ve been removed ages ago.

But it’s not without its charm. It’s nicest when the morning sun comes in, and the other day I spotted a squirrel bouncing around outside in the quaint English garden.

During my first week in Norwich I have fallen into an enviabe pattern of waking up early and sitting in bed for a few hours while the hotel internet is still fast, half-watching Antiques Roadshow or Judge Judy or some historical documentary before showering and venturing into town to wander those famous Norwich laneways and eat soup in one café or another, then meeting up with friends in the afternoons and evenings.

The very cool Bicycle Shop, where I came last time to see Nick play a gig.

Sighted these two almost identically dressed (down to the headbands) twins walking about town.

You can't really see, but this was a very lively street band and an old man dancing, shopping in hand.

Guilt mushrooms on toast at Frank's. I felt bad sitting in there with just a coffee when they were so busy, so I had second breakfast.

Spotted Liam playing with some friends one day on my ramblings.

Aside from soup, I love (and miss in Australia) pasties. God damn, I love pasties. I keep walking all the way into town from my hotel in the vain hope that they will be open for dinner, but they never are (they don't post opening hours in the window, frustratingly). At the time of writing, I have consumed six pasties in two days.

Bible bashers outside the West Cornwall Pasty Co.

Norwich recently became a UNESCO City of Literature (along with Melbourne), and it's not hard to see why. Everywhere there are young people reading literature, and down every lane is a bookshop. I've even noticed a substantively higher quality of graffiti! Sure, you've got your standard 'Elizabeth woz ere', but you've also got Keats!

And for you New Agers ...

On the afternoon of my first day, I was reunited with Sam and George in Norwich’s coolest café, Frank’s Bar, where it took us only an hour to get into one of our customary D&Ms. Lately I’ve found all my resistance to alcohol has evaporated somehow, and after two of the English ciders I’ve so missed since returning to Australia, I was beginning to feel the effects, which was amusing. We speculate that this was the cause of mine and Sam's mid-consumption complementary lollipop swap.

After a quick trip to Norwich’s fine Millennium Library and Tesco, we set off on the hour walk to George’s house in Costessey (pronounced 'cossy'), where I got to see other Norwich friends Liam and Chris. We basically hung out in the malodorous lounge room all night talking, often about Pokémon, as Chris is re-playing the classic Blue. We also watched an episode of Mad Men and played a few rounds of Super Smash Bros Melee, which Sam dominated, professing it was probably his third greatest skill.

Character of choice, Sheik the he-bitch.

The next day after my morning wanderings and soup breakfast, I met Sam and George at Frank's again, but was this time joined by the legendary Rob Perry. I also commenced dispensing the stack of Australian books I had brought as gifts from home, with Sam taking Christos Tsolkias' The Slap, George taking Nam Le's The Boat, and Rob taking Anna Funder's All That I Am. I later gave Markus Zusak's The Book Thief to Liam, David Malouf's Remembering Babylon to Avani, and Geraldine Brooks' People of the Book to Kim.

Leaving Frank's.

That night 'the Transcontinentals' were reunited when Sam (USA) and I (Aus) visited Kim's (UK) house, where she kindly cooked us dinner (and accommodated my vegetarianism when I informed her of it at the last minute). We continued in our tradition of Whedon-viewing (when I was last in the country we watched Dollhouse from start to finish) by starting Firefly, which I'd never seen.

We also discussed what mine and Sam's names might mean, Balderdash-style. See below.

  1. to bungle, often by complicating a simple matter. She luked the report.

  1. the act of luking. He really made a luke of the birthday party.
  2. a globule or dollop of viscous or gelatinous matter, typically expelled through a nozzle onto a conveyor belt. The machine produces 400 lukes per minute.
  3. a bag of milk, or any other liquid. Pass me the luke.
  1. an archaic song, performance, or dance, or a ritual comprised of such. The performers completed the samuel.
  2. a small rodent endemic to Latin America. A sulfur-spotted samuel scurried through the brush.
On Friday the Transcontinentals were due to convene once again, but Kim got caught up at the phone shop replacing her relic of a phone, Sam overexerted himself remedying the abovementioned noxious carpet at George, Chris and Liam's (or Newell, Stephens and Pritchett's) and spent the whole afternoon napping, and I did likewise after a week of getting up early and staying up late while generally jetlagged.

So we rescheduled for the next day. I knew Kim would be walking up the other side of the block my hotel is on, and I wondered if there was a way to get through from my side. I expected a dingy overgrown pathway or something, so imagine my surprise when I was greeted by this sight, accompanied by a timely parting of clouds:

Apparently the hotel backs onto a Victorian garden (which you are supposed to pay to enter). To my distress, however, there was no exit to the other side of the block. Luckily I was able to scale a wall just in time to run into Kim as she walked up the street. We spent an hour perusing in Norwich's best bookshop, the Book Hive, then met Sam at the cinema bar for drinks.

That night I headed over to NS&P's for pre-drinks, where I was to see some more familiar faces in Avani and Jess. I got very drunk, and we played Kings and Werewolves, and spectated as Sam taught Liam a Chinese drinking game.

For some reason they decided the dying rounds required belts to be tied round their heads.

We got a cab into town and met Rob Perry and co at the Playhouse, before making an unsuccessful attempt to get into Vodka Revs. Apparently Liam's shoes were too low-brow for that fine establishment. But never fear, for we were in the company of Rob Perry. Shortly after he said he wouldn't be able to work the same magic he had last time at the bar across the road because the management had changed, we were all walking in ahead of the queue, without a cover charge, being ushered into a (completely silent) private room where free Jagerbombs were awaiting us. We had a terrible dance, a drink, and then sat around chatting, reminiscing about the time Rob put his balls on George. Then Rob bestowed more free drinks upon us.

At some point before I went home, Avani and I discussed a fry-up at NS&P's the next morning. I rocked up at eleven thinking I'd probably have missed it, and that they would have all been up hours ago, but it turned out that after I'd left they hadn't been able to get a cab and, inhumanely, did the walk back to Costessey.

We basically hung around watching Mad Men, Magnum P.I., and the incredible Adventure Time (which I hadn't seen before), and feeling very day-after. I was also introduced briefly to Liam's tradition of Punk Rock Book Club, which originated when he had friends staying but no money, so they just spent every day in the backyard drinking and reading.

Chris Stephens: Jabba the Hutt, Grotty Mermaid, Insect Creature.

'Put a black and white filter on it. "We're having new age fun with a vintage feel!"' – Chris Stephens

Eventually I felt I needed sleep and headed back to the flat. And thus began my woes. The hour walk back to Norwich wasn't so bad. And it was pretty on the way.

The real trouble began when I got to Norwich and spent another hour walking around, just trying to find somewhere to get some takeaway food. Apparently Norwich is as dead as Wollongong on a Sunday night, if not deader. I've never had that much trouble finding food in the Gong. I eventually found a Pizza Hut on the other side of Norwich, where I ordered a drink and a pizza. What they gave me was a tiny pizza and a gigantic 7up (which I don't even really like). All I wanted after two hours of walking was to get into bed and watch TV and use the internet, but the hotel wifi was unusably slow, and all the channels except BBC had inexplicably disappeared off my TV. 

And that wasn't the end of it, either. I decided the next morning that I'd do my laundry at a laundrette I'd walked past on my way back from NS&P's. Once I got there, though, I realised I had no cash. The lady in the laundrette said I could leave my washing there, and directed me to the nearest ATM (or 'cashpoint'), at a Tesco down the road. Unfortunately, it was being serviced, so I enquired and was directed to the Co-op even further up the road. Unfortunately again, the ATM wouldn't accept my travel card OR my regular card. So I consulted my phone for the nearest ATM, and saw there was one off in the middle of nowhere and, slightly further away, a cluster in town. So I stupidly opted for the one in the middle of nowhere. I got halfway there before realising it was much further away than I'd originally thought, and also that if I went all the way there and it didn't work I'd have to go all the way back into town, so I decided to just go into town straight away, where I was to try a further two separate ATMs before I found one that worked, and walked ALL the way back to the laundrette where I'd left my washing. Fun times. And, yes, for the second post in a row, #FirstWorldProblems.

Luckily, things picked up after Til arrived that afternoon. But I'll write about that in my next post.


  1. Yeah, it was good. I only got to see the first hour, so hard to say. But it looked promising. I assume you're a fan?