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Big Blue Sky: A Celebration of Norfolk


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A love affair of over 70 years with the county of Norfolk.  Barrie examines, but not without humour, the Norfolk accent and vocabulary, and a few fascinating characters, typical of the county. There are brief punchy historical facts on Boudicca, Nelson, Allan Smethurst, Bernard Matthews, Scottish drovers, the Huguenots, coypus, the origins of the broads – and so much more.


It was the immediate post-war years. With mates Sludge, Gully, Shadley, and Roger the Rough, we tore through the woods bordering our road, living out the cops and robbers, and cowboys and Indians starting to appear on small black and white flickering screens in some homes. And my passion for rodents, invertebrates, and anything that croaked or hissed, was causing my mother no small concern about the stench in my bedroom. Then my pet frog escaped, followed by a few wild mice.

At the age of 10, I fell in love with Sandra, and then Ann and then Carol, and after that, a few more, whilst Barbara fell in love with me. Working on a fruit farm earned me some pocket money – and the occasional quick snog behind a gooseberry bush. And all under a big blue Norfolk sky.

We have a curious way of speaking in Norfolk. And a few words all of our own. We meet for a mardle, talk squit, and those working on a pyghtle might partake of ‘wittals’. I’ll explain in an early chapter.

Schooldays in the ‘40s, ‘50s and ‘60s were a little different from the 21st century. And earlier still, Nelson and Boudicca shaped our nation in their respective lifetimes. Saxon and Norman churches are monuments to the influence of past ‘invasions’, including the Flemish weavers and Huguenots. Other visitors to the county over the centuries have been vast numbers of Scottish drovers, holiday makers from the Midlands, herring girls from ‘up north’, and Eastern European fruit pickers.

Barrie Lawrence was born in Ditchingham, Norfolk and has spent most of his life in the county.  Married to Wendy and with 6 daughters and 20 grandchildren living in 5 different countries they travel widely of necessity.  But walking the footpaths, lanes and bridleways of Norfolk has been a passion since his earliest years.


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