ON A RECENT drawing weekend I found one location familiar. As Barbara and I walked
alongside the dyke towards West Somerton drainage mill at Martham Broad, I realised
that I’d been here on a family summer holiday in August 1966, when we’d hired a rowing
boat for an hour. I was 15 at the time and, as I had on 4 or 5 previous summers,
I kept a holiday journal. Add these to my subsequent sketchbooks and in the attic
I’ve got half a century of summer memories!
My mum’s influence comes across. She’s always been hooked on history. Not the awful
‘Social and Economic History between 1796 and 1851’ that I was currently studying
for my O-level exam, a dreary catalogue of metropolitan commissions and acts of Parliament.
The subject was taught from blackboards and duplicated notes, with hardly a picture
in sight, no original documents to handle and not a single field trip, even though
we were surrounded by mills, canals and railways from that period.
My mum’s version of history is more the ‘bad kings and good kings’ variety described
in 1066 and All That. A series of rattling good yarns, concerned with real people
rather than populations, with art and architecture - the products of the human hand
- rather than the products of bureaucrats and lawyers. History that you can go out
and touch and feel.
Hands-on history in Norfolk included brass-rubbing. I called at a cobblers for a
stick of heelball (a chunky hard black wax crayon) and at a village stores for a
roll of lining paper and we set off brass-rubbing.
In Reedham church the memorial brass of Elizabeth Berney in her butterfly head-dress
(above, right) dates from 1473.
Potter Heigham bridge - I couldn’t help thinking of a scene from I’m Alan Partridge,
when we revisited last month. Thankfully since the 1960s they’ve removed the planks
blocking the side arches!