Monday, 23 February 2009

Remembering Mitty

It is exactly a year ago that our black cat, Mitty, died. We used to take her on our Broads cruiser with us when she was younger. She settled down very well on the boat and soon had her favourite places. During the day she slept on one of the front cabin bunks, well wrapped up in a sleeping bag but at night, she prowled the boat, peering out through the windows and constantly waking us, demanding to be let out. One evening when we were moored on quiet moorings at Barton Turf, we took her out with a cat harness and lead. She walked first one way and then the other, hating the harness and wanting to be off into the undergrowth. Going along one of the walkways, she suddenly jumped, twisted and slipped the harness, immediately scampering away from us. We were distraught, chasing her, calling her, looking for her for about an hour or so. We could see her eyes shining in the undergrowth occasionally but she wouldn’t come to us. Exhausted and very stressed we eventually went back slowly to the boat, convinced that we had lost her for ever, only to find her sitting on the stern of the boat as if to say ‘I’m here, where have you been’! Unbelievable, she got an extra helping of chicken that night.

We moored up near Beccles one night and took her out on the lead again as we were worried that she might wander too far, with a lot of farmland nearby. R was frustrated and I was amused as she climbed up a tree with him standing at the bottom holding the expanding lead, trying to persuade her to come down!

We used to moor at the back of a small ‘island’ at Womack Water and felt secure in letting her out at night as we knew she couldn’t wander too far. She would go off, come back to see us and go off again all night but one night she excelled herself by bringing us back a live mouse and depositing it in the front cabin!

She developed kidney disease in 2006 and blindness was part of the illness. She adapted fairly well but if she lost her bearings would stand in the middle of a room and shout for us to re-orientate her. On the whole she found her way around very well, using her whiskers and obviously remembered knowledge of the house to find her way around. We never moved anything in the rooms and had to be careful not to leave anything lying around to confuse her. Her sense of hearing increased tremendously, as did her sense of smell – she always showed huge interest in what we were having for supper! Initially, she still wanted to fiercely maintain her territory and used to go out under the garden gate, followed by one of us as she headed off up the road determinedly, getting very cross if we brought her back. As the illness progressed, she wasn’t so bothered but would still patrol the garden and see off any other cats which dared to come in. Her sense of smell could identify them immediately and she would hiss and spit in their direction.

Her final deterioration came on 25th February last year and we had to make the awful decision not to prolong her life any further. People had told us that we would know when the time came and we did. We still miss her and I occasionally find myself addressing my black handbag if I leave it on the floor!

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Shortsighted policies

A family bought and renovated a barn on the Norfolk coast recently and, maybe naively, sought retrospective planning permission to change use to a permanent home from its former status as a holiday home.

They have just lost their application and have been given 18 months ‘respite’ to do what …? I suppose they can apply again for change of use in the hopes of a ‘change of heart’ or hope that either there will be a switch of personnel in the local planning committee or the rules (which are now under review) will be amended.

How absurd is this decision by the local councillors? We are constantly hearing about the villages dying because of second homes being empty for most of the time and yet the committee turns down the chance for a normal family to make their home in a village and make a contribution to the village life. One of the reasons given for the refusal is that it would ‘open the floodgates’ for applications from other barn owners – so what! Anything which would revitalise the villages and satisfy demand from families wanting to live in the country must surely be a good thing.

This strikes me as being similar to the attitude of a village who, in the 1980’s turned down the opportunity to be connected to a new gas pipeline because it would only encourage a certain amount of development and people might want to live in the village!

It’s about time Norfolk brought its policies into the 21st century!

Monday, 2 February 2009


With the south east at a virtual standstill with over a foot (that’s halfway between heel and knee in old money) or around 31cm of snow and East Anglia with just a sprinkling, I started to think of some ‘memorable snow that I have known’.

One of my first memories of snow was the winter of 1947/48 which was the year my youngest brother was born – December 23 to be precise. I can remember staying with my grandparents who lived down the road from us in Bournemouth and my father struggling through the snow with me and my other brother to the nursing home to visit our mother and new brother. I can remember the small wooden painted soldiers my new brother brought with him as a present for me (I must have been a bit of a tomboy!).

The next memorable snow was the winter of 1962/63 which was the year my eldest daughter was born (November). We were visiting parents in Bournemouth for Christmas and the snow started on Boxing Day. We had to get from one parents’ house to the other late in the evening in our Morris Minor car, up a steep hill, with a tiny baby in a carrycot on the back seat – scary to think there were no car seats or seat belts in those days, but there again there wasn’t too much traffic or fast cars either.

We got stuck halfway up the hill and our friends, who had gone ahead of us and managed to make it to the top in their Hillman, had to tie a rope to the front of our car and pull us up the hill, using a lamp post as leverage!

I also remember in March of 1963 being driven to Wiltshire by my father and the snow was piled 10ft (around 9 metres?) at the roadsides. He stopped and took a photo of the car (a two- tone black and white Triumph Herald!) in between the huge piles of snow each side of the road.

I remember walking 3-4 miles cross country in wellies, carrying party shoes, in February 1979 to go to a Valentine’s Day party and coming back in the early hours to a magical world of deep, glistening snow and complete silence. Travellers were being stranded in their cars all over Norfolk and local people were out with their shovels and opening up their homes to complete strangers for bed and breakfast. A real community spirit!

Norwich in early 1983 (I think) was brought to a standstill by heavy snow one evening, and I recall walking through the spellbinding grounds of Norwich cathedral, with the snow highlighting the wonderful architecture of the cathedral and the lovely old buildings surrounding it. Cars were abandoned everywhere and a great sense of camaraderie was felt as masses of people struggled to get home. I can remember walking into the city centre that night to eat at a favourite, family run restaurant, the only people there, and sitting down with the family for our evening meal. The silence of the city that night has stayed with me all these years.