(james benedict brown) on the road

Yahoo gives St. Patrick’s Day to the British…

Posted in Posts by James Benedict Brown on 9 February, 2009

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Sorry Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day is now a British holiday, according to the Yahoo calendar that I’ve never used (see here at the bottom of my online mail inbox). Add that to the Irish complaint of being lumped in with the British on the map.

Castle Acre bookshop discoveries #2

Posted in Posts by James Benedict Brown on 23 January, 2009

Back in the summer I made a habit of spending a few hours a week helping out at the Friends of Castle Acre Church Charity Bookshop, not far from my rural hideaway (every unemployed architect needs a rural hideaway, that’s where we go to when the drudgery of unemployment gets too much).

As with previous sessions helping out with the largely jumbled and unordered collection of books, the most rewarding discoveries aren’t always books (sometimes they’re Danish promotional material about cheese). This time was no exception, with the discovery of a full colour leaflet produced by the long-forgotten Decimal Currency Board.

Monday 15 February 1971 was D (for Decimal) Day, when Britain’s archaic currency of pounds, shillings, pence, crowns, farthings and ha’pennies were replaced by the decimalised pounds and pence. This 22 page leaflet (and its pull out Shoppers’ Table was distributed, perhaps in six figure quantities, to help people make the transition without confusion or the lingering doubt that they might be being ripped off by dishonest tradesmen.

Not withstanding the obvious advances in new media and technology, the message is pretty much the same as that given to European citizens who have seen their currencies superseded by the Euro.

Perhaps a modernised equivalent of this leaflet will one day be distributed on the streets of Britain (or via text message, internet and interactive television) in the event of a conversion to the Euro? If nothing else, this little discovery has finally helped me comprehend the hierarchy of Britain’s “old money” designations.

The Friends of Castle Acre Church Charity Bookshop is open (subject to volunteers being available) 10:00 – 16:00 every Saturday and public holiday, and is found at the eastern end of Castle Acre’s high street in west Norfolk. Thousands of paperbacks and hardbacks already in stock, with no small number containing similarly delightful little historic documents between their pages.

Salthouse Beach

Posted in Posts by James Benedict Brown on 31 December, 2008

A simple Christmas tradition chez Brown is an escapade to the North Norfolk coast, usually on either Boxing Day or New Year’s Day. If it’s the former, it’s to undo the culinary excesses of the previous day. If it’s the latter, it is to stride with optimism in the reliably cold and clear first day of the new year, while contemplating what the next 525,000 minutes will bring.

After an excessively digital year, it was invigorating to scrunch and crunch across the pixelated shingle beach at Salthouse. I am reliably informed that the last Ice Age forced a glacier torwards the sea, creating a terminal moraine (a.k.a. a long hill) just short of the Norfolk coastline. This shelters the gently rolling landscape of farmland that is indelibly marked on my childhood. Ascending and descending this last gentle hill before the coast conceals the North Sea until the final moments of the journey.

That scrunch and crunch is superb exercise for most of the muscles in your legs. The beach stretches to the horizon in one direction, and almost as far in the other. Distant church towers punch the horizon line, and birds dip below the lee of the dunes in search for shelter. Allowing for complete personal mobility (this is not a disabled-friendly beach) Salthouse is one of the most accessible beaches on the north Norfolk coast. There are no parking charges (and an hourly Coast Hopper bus if that offends you) and the beach is right there, sandwiched in a mini terminal moraine of its own, artificially banked up to form a shingle dune to protect the renowned marshes that shelter between the coastline and the village.

Mounting this bank of shingle, the North Sea presents itself in its wintry glory, and a cold sea sets down to penetrating your clothes following a long journey across the sea from Scandanavia.

This year, my encounter with the North Sea was on Boxing Day. The immensity of a new year had not yet arrived, and naïve ambitions to set goals and resolutions had not yet been nurtured. We walked along an endless beach with no target in sight or in mind, ploughing on against a bitterly humid Baltic wind, sniffling into gloves and remarking on the pale white skulls of long beaked birds that met their maker along the edge of this sea. Half forgotten couplets blew about in the wind, and a modest attempt at poetry to describe the situation was swept away, liable only to be blogged about in shapeless prose a few days later.

The dawg-lovers of Sandringham

Posted in Posts by James Benedict Brown on 26 December, 2008

I am not an ardent royalist, but of all the money I spent in 2008 I don’t regret the sixty-six pence I contributed to the maintenance of our Royal Family. In fact I’m prepared to reach into my pocket and cover the cost of a vocal republican if needs be, so content am I with that cost per person.

No such republicans appeared to be in attendance outside Sandringham Church in Norfolk on Christmas morning.

Perhaps this greyhound resents living under a monarch?

No, it seems not.

More photographs here.


Christmas Day 2008

Posted in Posts by James Benedict Brown on 25 December, 2008

From the depths of darkest Norfolk, wishing you all a peaceful and happy Christmas, and a healthy 2009.