Christmas Grumps

Now don’t get me wrong I absolutely love Christmas but I can’t stand the build up which seems to start earlier every year. For me Christmas should start about noon on the 24th and be over by the close of play on Boxing Day. I don’t even want to start thinking about it until the middle of December and then only as a passing thought. I absolutely hate shopping at the best of times so Christmas present buying is a serious no-go area for me although I have had to pay it some early attention this year as I now have a grandson to consider and there are some serious family logistics involved which means I’m likely to see him in early December and then not at all over the festive period – it’s a thought which saddens me as Christmas (religion apart for a minute) is a time for family and in particular the children.

The ability to shop online is a real boon for me as I don’t have to face the crowds and jostle and the purchases are delivered to me rather than having to struggle home with them. Half an hour, or so, on the computer has replaced several desperate afternoons shopping in town and that makes me kind of happy. However I can’t get out of my mind that I am contributing to the change that is slowly coming over our cities and towns. At least by shopping people have to be employed to serve me and to carry the goods to the shop etc. The cafés and restaurants benefit from my frustration when I just have to have a cup of tea or a steaming latte to escape however briefly in to my own little world. Now I can make my own tea and press a few buttons. True somebody in an anonymous and highly automated warehouse has a job that didn’t previously exist and the courier trade does very well but I suspect that margins there are very tight due to fuel prices.

Go back 200 years and a not dis-similar situation existed although it was delightfully slow and immediacy didn’t happen. There you are sat in your cottage in Brampton, Burgh or Oxnead as an example.  A new piece of furniture would have been a very significant purchase but delivery was a nightmare. Never fear – buy from a Great Yarmouth store or maker and they will deliver. Actually the wherryman would deliver as the courier service of the day. The wherry would wind its way up the Bure and through the locks to your village staithe and from there it would, one assumes, be barrowed to the grateful recipient. The carriage of consumer goods was a secondary trade for the wherries and I doubt if much money was ever made from it but it would have made a real difference to those living in the villages along the Bure.

These are Oxnead residents perhaps waiting for the next wherry delivery

My interest in the Aylsham Navigation was first triggered by just such an event. My wife who had lived here for many years before we met had an old couple as friends now sadly no longer with us. One day I was in the small front room of their one up – one down cottage (well it was originally but by then it had a kitchen added) and remarked on the grandfather clock bearing the name of a Great Yarmouth maker that sat in the corner of the room. The old lady very matter of factly remarked that it arrived in Brampton by wherry. My interest was roused and the rest, they say is history.

Christmas must have been a difficult time on the Navigation as winter cargoes, except for coal and burning timber, were few and far between but somehow they had to keep going. It would seem that somehow they transpired to be home for Christmas day but they would be sailing the day before and the one after. My sort of Christmas really ………

The staithe in Brampton was very near the Island and that reminds me to point out that, contrary to indications on the ground, there is a 1 metre wide footpath through that location running parallel with the river. The landowner lost a public enquiry over this issue and the County Council having very little money are not jumping to the defence of local walkers here. It is your right to walk through the island, don’t lose it by default.

Yarmouth in 1904 – it was from here that some of the consumer goods including the grandfather clock started ther journey up the Bure.

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