pakenham-51An interlude, at least, in that we’ve broken away from Norfolk and plunged into Suffolk – gasp! As it’s Saturday night – it’s party time and not one minute we can lose! – I opted to go wild in such a way and… draw a windmill.

Here we have Pakenham Mill, situated near Burgh St Edmunds. Built in 1830, it has stayed in resplendent condition for most of its life, and in 2001 was brought back to full working order. It stands not too far away from an equally beautiful watermill; I believe both are open to visitors.

Though always something of a star, the mill had a wider brush with celebrity some fifty or sixty years ago. Its operation was shot by the BBC as part of a series of short Interlude films – a placeholder while studios were dressed for the next programme, or to cover any breakdowns in still relatively new technology. The ethos of ‘mildly engaging but not so much that anything would be missed by looking away’ makes the circular motion of the windmill’s sails a perfect fit. As you can probably guess, though, I find it hard to imagine looking away – where were these when I was a child?

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Bor, I never cood arn much money,
  No matter how ‘ard I try’d;
But never wor short o’ dumplins
  Or a good owd eel well fry’d.

Another Song of Another Norfolker, John Knowlittle

I’m not sure I’ve included a single figure in my old-time Norfolk landscapes so far. While that is perfectly permissible in a setting very possibly devoid of people, it seemed about time to glance at those who might be patrolling the scene.

The marshmen were a hardy bunch, fighting an unending battle day and night with the sea in order to keep land fit for farmers and cattle – fit for trade. Trudging around out there in the dark depths of winter makes me shudder just in prospect, never mind actually doing it! But this was just what needed to be done – and, in doing just that, these men shaped the Broads into what it is today. Today, of course, many of their duties are usurped by machinery, though there are still groups who train and work as marshmen on the Broads, particularly the art of reed-cutting, in a bid to keep the traditional practice alive.

This fine chap was drawn from Home from the Marshes, a shot by naturalist photographer Peter Henry Emerson, whose 1887 body of images, Life and Landscape of the Norfolk Broadshas proven a particular inspiration since discovering them. Long charmed by the unassuming beauty of the area – to the extent that he’d subsequently revisit East Anglia a number of times – Emerson’s works form an intimate and extremely valuable insight into the people going about duty and leisure and creating an almost effortless intrigue, a pondering of what book-ended this snapshot. I wonder if this particular bor got his Norfolk dumplings come home time? One hopes.

gasometer1_0007aGreat Yarmouth is full of relics, and that’s before we’ve even come to my parents. Thank goodness, too, for these sights bring a touch of inspiration and character that’s very much needed.

Perhaps nowhere calls for it more than the dockland of the South Denes; once host to a thriving holiday park, the resort now gives way to a joyless maze of warehouses and oil tanks until, somewhere amid the heightening grime, Nelson’s Monument pops up – Britannia standing proudly out of sync.

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Perhaps, then, this nineteenth century gasometer frame is a fitting reminder of the town’s legacy in energy, harking back to when the town was a burgeoning powerhouse. The fluctuating drum would have stored a tremendous amount of coal gas ready for distribution – the masses connected.

A toxic monster of its day, but in retirement it possesses a period ornateness that has it sticking out as prominently as the Monument. The most charming thing of the structure is surely the elaborate finials; a stepped-out spire beneath flowing volutes. I thought this might make for an interesting construction. I was wrong, but still am glad to have completed it. It’s something that’s been in my eye-line forever, and, as it’s a listed structure, I presume it’ll be there for a while yet. It could do with a lick of paint, mind you!

Not having a clue of its application and just seeing an empty, looming frame, I used to call it a giant’s fireguard. Hmm. Still, I think that’s probably more romantic than the reality!

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littlesnoring-1I thought the village an appropriate subject to bring life to what has, of late, been a rather sleepy place!

There’s probably something to be said for the state of the windmill, too, but we shan’t go there. Standing on the border of Little Snoring and neighbouring Great Snoring, this trestle mill, replete with its trendy porch, worked producing flour from 1805 to at least 1922, ultimately being dismantled in 1950. Curiously, the trestle foundation was left in place and remains apparent, though the site itself is now overrun by vegetation.

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A landmark about Little Snoring that you can see today is St Andrew’s, yet another round tower church, a trademark of East Anglia, and subjected to numerous cosmetic changes over the centuries. The Norman tower of flint actually stands a few feet detached from the present building, and is capped not by a traditional spire but a nineteenth century conical cap, complete with lookout gables and spike. It certainly captured my eye.

Many thanks to the wonderful website of Tricia Booth, whose extensive knowledge on the Snorings made an unplanned voyage most interesting. I should quite like to visit one day.

With that, we wake – one hopes!

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“It’s the irresistible force meeting the immovable object!”

Thirty years ago today, the most memorable stare-down in the history of professional wrestling took place in the middle of the Pontiac Silverdome, before some eighty thousand fans. At WrestleMania III, Hulk Hogan, the WWF’s flag-bearer throughout its global expansion of the eighties, was pitted against André the Giant, the icon and star of the seventies.

As the current legacy of WrestleMania behoves a generous amount of nostalgia, it’s easy to overlook the fact that, while obviously hugely important, I and II were not much to write home about, feeling more like glorified house shows with Mr. T and Ozzy Osbourne shoe-horned in. WrestleMania III, from the opening shot, feels different, progressive and special, not least for the iconic venue and raucous crowd. There were other touches, too; I particularly like how the wrestlers don’t walk the long aisle, but travel via a cart dressed as a miniature ring. High above and almost floating over the sea of humanity, the performers come off looking like bona fide stars.

André had been considering retirement the year prior; complications of acromegaly were contributing to a steady decline in his mobility. A huge star in overseas promotions, he actually worked retirement matches in Mexico and Japan, before the question of North America came up, where he hadn’t wrestled in months. It was during his time in England shooting The Princess Bride that he was tempted into the match by Federation boss, Vince McMahon – but not before surgery on his back in an effort to relieve his pain.

The Giant would return to WWF television in January 1987, turning evil, aligning himself with Bobby “The Brain” Heenan – right-hand man of countless Hogan rivals – and challenging for the title. Prior to the big match, they would only meet on one occasion, during a twenty-man battle royal, where the nasty Giant ejected Hulk with considerable ease. Coupled with claims that André had gone undefeated for fifteen years, Hulkamaniacs were probably quaking in their boots more than ever before. They cared. Looking back now, the storyline was executed so simply, but therein is its beauty; overdoing it was not necessary with such awesome characters. The buzz was off the scale.

Of course, with Hogan a limited wrestler at best, and André clearly in poor condition, the WrestleMania III match is not a five-star classic, to say the least. But, from the two locking eyes as the bell rings, to the moment Hogan lifts Andre up and slams him en route to victory, there is no clearer an example of how little that matters. For sheer spectacle, I can’t think of another match that really comes close; I first saw it at the age of twelve, seventeen years after the event – I’ve watched it countless times since, and it still has that special feeling. Testament to the moment’s totemic importance is the sheer number of times such a stand-off has been referenced, if not outright emulated – but never has it had quite the same impact as Hogan versus André, where The Giant generously passed the torch to the new ‘number one’, and the wrestling boom reached its apex, thirty years ago today.

karen2017-2Well, it has been a year! Not wanting to let the day pass without noise, here’s a birthday portrait of the one and only Karen Carpenter. Indeed, I shall be using this as an excuse to play some music as loud as possible!

Thank you for the mu-oh wait that’s ABBA. Well then, with every note of Karen’s mysterious and soothing lullaby, it truly is yesterday once more.

potterheigham-1I do hope nobody here was affected by the wicked Storm Doris.

Avoiding the clutches of the weather, I took the excuse for a rather more leisurely drawing than I’ve been doing of late, spending several hours here. It’s something of a wind back to a very early post of mine, actually, looking at Norton Marsh Drainage Mill now over eighteen months ago, so there’s little in the way of ground-breaking experimentation. Happily, though, in the echoes I can see signs of increased confidence, not least in the fact that I chose to sketch a mill face on this time! I should hope so too, really…

I was taken by the frosty reference photograph, which goes back to the 1920s. I know nothing of the mill’s profile – it’s just branded ‘The Windmill’ or ‘old mill’ – other than its whereabouts: the village of Potter Heigham. It was curiously attractive and inspirational for that, Doris or no Doris, so I’m sure I’d have got round to this eventually.

Noting the off-centre position of the mill in my drawing, moreover that there’s really not all that much excitement behind, I did wonder about an alternative portrait, allowing the mill to have undisputed glory. While it does afford that, I think the vast and remote landscape does just as much, if not more, for the mill’s presence.

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The enjoyment gained from this suggests it was an itch, and one that essentially scratched itself. The pursuit for a happy medium (fun) will continue, you be sure of it!