“Where are you from?”
I’ve given many different answers to that question. Not because I’m a compulsive liar or a spook with multiple identities (I wouldn’t have made a good spy, especially once the other side worked out how ticklish I am).
No, it’s because the answer varies according to where I am and who I’m talking to. In some situations the only sensible answer seems to be “England” or “the UK”. Much of the time, happily, “Norfolk” can be a meaningful answer; if there’s room for follow-up, then “Great Yarmouth”.
If I’m in more knowledgeable company, “Gorleston” can come into play. And with good Norfolk friends, such as Mr and Mrs Dennis, we can get down to street level (it’s Avondale Road, where my mum still lives).
Until recently, I’d leave it there. I’m proud of my Norfolk roots and feel the strongest affinity for our county, but I’d leave it to others to eulogise about their home areas. Boasting isn’t part of our Norfolk character – and after all, it is very flat.
However, as I get older I’ve become more of an evangelist for Norfolk. I think it’s great, and others should know it. Actually, many do.
Some of these thoughts are prompted by the remarkable news, as I understand it, that Grant Holt is to relocate his family to Norfolk. I’d always respected his attachment to his native Cumbria and oft-stated desire to finish his career at Carlisle.
If true, the news is a surprise but hardly out of step with history. A succession of City players and managers coming from far corners of Britain (and beyond) have found a new home in Norfolk and stayed long beyond their obligation to the club.
This phenomenon gets a number of mentions in the newly-published Tales from the City. A flavour from Iwan’s chapter: “The first thing that hits you when travelling to Norwich is how far from everywhere the place is. After you’ve lived in Norfolk for a while you realise that’s a positive, not a negative”; “I still live in the Fine City of Norwich. Of course.”
I’m working my way through Tales from the City, enjoying every page. It has a wealth of snippets and insights to delight the City fan – not to mention the feature of the future Mrs Dennis that first caught the eye of our Mick.
Up to now I’ve studiously avoided mentioning Newcastle, of course. There’s been plenty of wailing and gnashing of teeth over that one, with some justice. I’ll only offer two thoughts:
– If an opposition midfielder scores four goals, most of them without any of your own midfielders in sight, then your overall set-up wasn’t right
– If we’d bought an expensive defender and played him instead of Russell Martin on Sunday, how much difference would it have made? As I see it, little or none.
If Sunday reminded us that our 34-year-old manager is still learning, maybe that’s not a bad thing. I believe Alex Neil has star quality and hope he’s with us for a very long time. But he’s learning his trade at the top level. The good news is that – as our two games against Middlesbrough in the spring showed – he’s a very quick learner.
One side-issue from Sunday. The next day’s papers were full of debate and fury about the referee – not ours, of course, but Craig Joubert and his penalty decision against Scotland in the Rugby World Cup.
It was nowhere near as blatant an error as Anthony Taylor’s miss of the pull on our Jonny Howson as he prepared to head in from two yards at Newcastle. That was bad, but I’m still happy the FA didn’t follow the example of World Rugby and announce that the referee was wrong.
Though no doubt well-intentioned, that doesn’t help anyone and sets a terrible precedent.
Norfolk has some mixed memories for me – the school cross-country run along the Yarmouth sea-wall in winter isn’t the best – but I still get a warm shiver every time I drive past the sign welcoming me back to Nelson’s County.
Other counties have their heroes, of course, but we have a good one in Lord Nelson (technically, Viscount Nelson of the Nile and Burnham Thorpe). I don’t know if he had to do the school cross-country, but he did once say something about every man being expected to do his duty – as Norwich fans, a thought worth reflecting on.