Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Let's Do the Time Warp Again!

I like going to Aldborough. They have the most interesting antique cricket ground in Norfolk. It is literally on the village green – surrounded by homes and shops. A big hit brings the village gardens into play. It is altogether an interesting place to play. Actually it's an altogether interesting place – full stop.

For those who get lost leaving their front door, Aldborough is between Alysham and Cromer but a bit closer to Cromer. It's off the main A140 by a solid two miles. Even in rural Norfolk Aldborough is a bit out of the way which makes it all the more remarkable because it has the most remarkable facilities. Visiting Aldborough is like visiting the set of a 1940's British film or a clone of the TV series, Heartbeat.

In addition to one of the most picturesque cricket grounds around, Aldborough has: a post office cum general store; a Spar shop (built as an extension to someone's home – how they ever got planning permission for this is truly a wonder – it's only a stone's throw from the existing post office/general store); two pubs (one, like it's more well-know namesake on Aylsham marketplace, is called the Black Boys, the other is the more prosaically and ubiquitously named Red Lion - more about Black Boys later); an antique shop; a village butcher's shop and the headquarters of the Norfolk Cricket League sponsors, Knight's Sporting Memorabilia. Not bad for a village you can throw a cricket ball from one side to the other. I'm sure in the 40's there was many a Norfolk village in the same state – but, since then 99% of the “excess” pubs, butchers and village stores have disappeared – mostly courtesy of Tesco, Sainsbury's and Somerfields. Somehow Aldborough has been left in a time warp.

Whilst chatting to one of the fielders who happened to play for the home side, I reminded him that when I first played at Aldborough (say 20 years ago) we got changed in the pub, the aforementioned Black Boys. Nowadays changing and drinking is in the Red Lion. After confirming that my memory was indeed correct he dealt a hammer blow to the “outsiders” (from London – these particular ones) who had taken over the Black Boys a few years ago and prompted the mass emigration of cricketers to the Red Lion. Fascinating stuff. Apparently these East End refugees had no idea how to run a pub – certainly not in Aldborough in any event. Inevitably, they sank without a trace and the pub changed hands, but the cricketers stayed loyal to the Red Lion, so there we repaired for the after-match drinks. Oddly, the barman (perhaps landlord as well?) was rather nattily dressed in a splendid waistcoat (among other items of apparel, of course) and cut a real dash among the local drinkers. Could be this is fairly normal for Aldborough? Could be.

I learned of all these interesting developments in the history of Aldborough whilst standing at square-leg chatting to one of the “local” fielders. All afternoon folks arrived at the Spar shop, went inside and, after a few minutes, came out and drove off. I thought it was odd that so many “locals” were driving to the shop? And, why was it open on Sunday afternoon until 6 p.m. ? Could Aldborough be the centre of a white slaving ring? HQ Cocaine? Illegal Bookies R Us?

I say there is something odd in Aldborough. Get up there and check it out some Sunday. It's a pleasant drive and plenty of pubs to choose from – for its size!

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