One of a series of love letters to Norwich during the coronavirus lockdown of 2020. A few local people reflecting on what they miss, about everyday life in the city.
I have really struggled to write this love letter, but I will give it a go. I find myself writing a few lines stopping, reading it back and know it isn’t even close to expressing how I feel.
So I am just going to go for it, unfiltered.
Sitting at my desk tapping away at my keyboard on a Monday afternoon, I have three terrariums on the desk, one was a special present, the other two I have planted, I call them the girls. I have a desk lamp on, even though it is daytime because I like the light on the jars. I am wearing my headphones listening to Tinariwen – lockdown in Norwich May 2020.
Anyone that knows me, knows how much living in and being a part of this city has changed my life. I talk about it constantly with my friends and family, always positive, always singing its praises, always saying how lovely it is to find a place that I can call home.
I don’t ever have to leave Norfolk, I probably will, it’s the nature of things, nothing is permanent, but I don’t feel like I have to and that is the difference.
I found it tough when I arrived as I was commuting from Colchester, the tough bit was not the commute in, it was leaving at the end of the day. It was during this year that I learnt something of the character of the people in our city.
Independently minded, too bloody right. I was obviously not from round these parts, but I was part of history. Strangers have been turning up here for centuries and if they were willing to put in the effort, they would find a community that was willing to welcome them, but on their terms. This is a good thing.
Starting to work in a much-loved cultural institution like NAC was daunting enough, but not being from here it was soon made clear to me that I would have to put in the work. Jonty was actually one of the first people to tell me that I would “do alright here”, it was a real moment for me, I doubt he remembers it. I was sitting with him on the mez in the NAC bar as part of my introductions to some of the movers and shakers in the city. I met lots of lovely people but there really was an underlying uncertainty about me being the right person for the job. I was already wrestling with a huge sense of imposter syndrome and so somebody like Jonty giving me a thumbs up, changed everything.
I could wax lyrical about the restaurants, bars, venues, parks, beaches, river walks, coffee houses, fruit and veg stalls, Asian food markets, vegan supermarkets, greasy spoons, skate parks, beaches, piers, theatres, art galleries, cobbled streets, castles, spice stalls, pubs, churches, festivals etc etc etc that are a part of my daily life here in this city, in this county but everyone reading this will already know how special all these places are.
I could tell you about how life changes have caused me to re-evaluate so many things and how you will now find me tucking into tofu, running 6k at 7am and singing in choirs in December (trying to help win an election) and how important these things are to me. I could tell you about how special it is to my son and I that we maintain traditions such as skateboarding from the top of St Benedicts Street to the bottom or how much I miss my daughter sitting on the back of my bike as I cycle along Pottergate taking her to school, but none of this is really the story.
The story of my love letter with Norwich, at any time is one of community, of people. Yes I do on the odd occasion find myself having a late night zoom sessions with poets & rock and rollers plotting and planning for the future. Yes I have sat in the arts centre garden with the children longing for the venue to be open and full of people, yes I am in contact with colleagues and peers from across the city on a regular basis, yes I still get to wave to councillors on my morning run, yes I get stopped in the street (in a socially distant way on a shopping trip) and am told how much they are missing NAC and will we be ok, yes I have friends cycle past the flat and call out coo-eee, yes I watch artists working really damn hard to find a way of still paying the rent by transferring what they do live onto a screen and sharing on a social media platform, yes I do take a call from an old friend who is struggling, yes I do make a call to a new friend when I am finding lockdown tough, yes yes yes….. Norwich will survive because of its people and for that I am truly grateful. Norwich I love you, continue to make us work hard, as the payback is worth every single moment of effort.