Norfolk Monologues

by Chris Gutteridge

When I moved to Norfolk, about half a century ago, the Norfolk "Good Old Boy" was a common sight. Dressed in a black suit, shiny with age, a striped, collarless shirt and a flat cap, trousers tucked into socks or "water boots", he could be seen riding, or just as frequently pushing, an old, black, "sit-up-and-beg" trade bike with a box on the front containing a Jack Russell terrier. Normally, I have a dislike of written dialect, with all its apostrophes and odd phonetic spellings, but when the first of these little anecdotes came into my head, about a Good Old Boy reflecting on the peculiarities of the modern world, I couldn't resist. I hope you like them.

Hev yew hard about our new rector?
Well, yew know since old Mr Hardisty retired we bin hevin' a hinter-rectum; though why vicars retire these days I don't know. They never used ter did they. They use ter gew on 'till they dropped didn't they. These days though they want decent wages 'n' pension plans an' all sorts. That hin't right, is it.

Still, tha's all beside the point. We come to the end o' our hinter-rectum at last, an' we got a new rector, but you'll never guess what! No, that hin't one o' them women priests, least, not 'xacly. I couldn't be havin' none o' that nonsense. I hin't gewin' ter Chuch a-Sunday to be preached at by some old mawther. I can git that at'um any day o' the week.

No, tha's suffin' different to that. We got a young feller from London. He had one of they inner city parishes, poor feller, an' now they sent him ter us for a bit o' peace 'n' quiet, I reckon. But he hin't bin gettin' it. Trouble is, he's a nice enough old boy, but that turn out he's gay.

That don't bother me. I reckon I hin't got much to worry about on that score. An' all the ol' mawthers, they think the world on him. He's everso pertic'ler, an' he 'preciate all they do to trickerlate th'old Chuch up an' that, an' they say he make a lovely cup o' coffee do they drop in round the rectory. He's makin' th'ol' place look real homely, runnin up the curtains an' that hisself.

No, tha's th'ol' squire wa's got all hot under the collar about it. He say nobody told him that was a gay rector till that was too late. He say he hin't bein' rector's warden to no shirt-lifter, he say, an' he wrote to the bishop 'n' complained.

The bishop he wrote straight back, an' now th'ol' squire's in a right stew. He's suffin' savage! The bishop he say our rector's a fine man and a good Christian , an' so long as he hin't a practisin' howmer sexshuwal that hin't nobody's business 'cept his own.

So that seem as if so long as the rector's got the hang o' this here howmer sexshuwal business, tha's alright. Tha's a rumm'n, hin't ut?

I bike up town most Tuesdies.
Least, I dun't bike much these days. Me an th'ol' bike, we come to an agreement. I ride down the hills, an' we lean on each other goin' up. Tha's a good old bike but that seem t'have got heavier just leartly. Tha's one o' them ol' trade bikes wi' a ol' orange box on th' front t'put yer bits o' things in. When I had a little ol' dog, he used ter sit in th'box, good as gold. He was a good ol' dog.

Anyhow, what I wus a-leadin' up to was, I was pushin' th'ol' bike up th'hill past the horspital last Tuesdie when our young Darren come past on one o' them new mounting bikes. He slow right down an' ride alongside on me, an' he say, "I don't know what yew hev a bike for, Grandad. I hin't never sin yer ridin' it."

I just kep' ploddin' on. He can be a cheeky ol' boy, but I don't mind him. Then he say, " What you need is one o' these here mounting bikes like I're got. You hin't got n'gears, hevyer.

Well, my ol' missus hev got a Sturmey-Archer three-speed on har bike, but tha's a lady's bike. She don't get that out much, but do she do, she dun't use the gears. She say they're a added comperlication.

Well, young Darren, he start ridin' round an' round me on his mounting bike 'till that fare make my hid spin; an he kep' a-clickin' an' a-clatterin' them ol' gears. He say, "I got twenty-five gears, so I can ride anywhere. Yew kin even ride up mountins on a bike like this."

I say, "That must be very useful round here." He din't say nuthin'. He jus' kep' on goin' around an around, so I say, "Won't that go in a straight line, then?" He shot off up the rud an' I din't see him n'more.

We got one o' them femernists moved in next door.
I din't realise tha's what she were at first, mind. She got a little ol' boy, he hin't more'n knee high ter a grassthopper, so I s'pose that hin't that long since she saw suffin' in one man at least, but she hin't got no time for none on us nowadays.

I was in the back place th'other day, when I heard a haltercation down the garden. That was her next door an' my missus an' they was a'goin hammer n' tongs. Her next door, she's a-shriekun' an'a-hollerin' an' a-goin' ahid.

"I can't believe I'm a-hearin' this!" she say. I think, what's that she's a-hearin'? An' I push the ol' winder open a bit so's I can find out.

That turn out my ol' missus is stickin' up for us men. I must say I couldn't quite believe that myself! An'she wasn't shoutin'. She was as cool as a cucmber, but she stood her ground. She say tha's all very well runnin' down men in general, but she hin't got no complaints an' if her next door go an' pick a wrong'n' she hin't got no call ter go a-tarrin' um all wi' the same brush.

One thing I din't like the sound of. Her next door she say she got so fed up wi' her ol' man, she stabbed him wi' th'kitchern knife. Well, I had bin thinkin' a offerin' ter help her with her garden an' that when she first move in, seein' as how she was single-like. I'm glad I din't now. Them garden himpelerments is worse'n kitchern knives.

Anyhow, my ol' girl she have the last word, an' I hear next door's back door slam.

When my missus come in I wus all ready to say suffin' to her, I was suffin' proud o' the way she stuck up for me, but she say, "What you standin' there a-grinnin' all over yer ugly ol' face for? Have yer finished th'washin' up yet?"

So I just dried the knives an'put un away in the draw quiet, like.

Our young Darren, he's on ther hinternet.
We was round theirs th'other night, an he say come'n' look what I got Grandad. He take me in their spare room an' sit me down in front o' this telly, only that hin't a proper telly.

He say, "Now come on, Granda, what you hinterested in?"

I say, "I wouldn't mind a pint o' beer." He type in beer or suffin' like that on his keyboard thing, an' all these words come on the telly. I di'n't hev me glasses so I couldn't tell yer what that said, 'xactly.

"Now what's yer favourite beer, Grandad?" he say.

"You know as well as me," I say. "I like a pint of Adamson's, brewed in Norfolk, same as my ol' Daddy useter drink."

So he type in Adamson's. Suddenly th'ol' telly screen say "Welcome to th' Website o' Multi-Conglomerate Breweries Hinternational" in big letters.

I say "Who're they when they're uthum?"

Darren, he say, "They make Adamson's, Grandad. Di'n't yew know that?"

I say, "No, I di'n't, an' I di'n't want ter. Where's my beer?" I wus thinkin' he'd hev a job gettin' a pint o' beer out on the telly, whatever that say on th'screen.

He say, "Hold on, I'll print you orft all about Adamson's," an' he press some buttons an' this ol' machine in the corner start up.

"You keep an eye on that, Grandad," he say, "I just got ter go and download," and he head off for th'smallest room.

Well, I sat an' watched that ol' machine a-clatterin' an' a-hummin' in th'corner, an' that kep' on a-spoutin' out paper 'till that was all over the floor.

When he come back he got in a right ol' stew. He say, "I thought you wus watchin that for me."

I say, "I din' tek me eyes off on it."

I never did get my beer. Mind you, Adamson's don't seem to taste the same since then, I don't know why.

We got new neighbours agin.
No, not the femernist - she's still there, though we don't see her out the back much since her an' my missus had words. That's th'other side, now. Old Mrs Spinks, she upped and died a month or two back, an' her family they've sold her little old place.

I was on the garden th'other day, an' this young fella, he look over the fence an' he say, "Hi," he say. Tha's them Americans done that. Tha's not the only thing they left a-hind after they was over here - nor that hin't the worst, neither!
Anyways, he say, "Hi, I'm Toby, your new neighbour," an' he put his out hand fer t' shake hands. Well, that put me at a bit of a stand. I did'n' want to appear unfriendly, so I wipe me hand on me corduroys, an' I go over.

Tha's a funny thing, but I didn' know rightly what t' call meself. Mr Balls sound a bit formal, an' not many peope use my first name. My Missus call me all sorts a things, an' my mates have called me Michael since I was a little totty ol' boy, but that hin't my right name. Most people can't remember why I got called that, and I hin't in no hurry to remind them, but tha's another story.

So, anyway, I take his hand, and I say, "Pleased ter meet you, my name's Alfred."

There's a young lady stand next ter him, and he say, "This is my partner, Alex."

So I say, "What line o' business are yew in, then," just makin' conversation.

They look at me gone out, then he laugh an' say, "No, Alex is my significant other."

"Other than what?" I say, an' I feel I'm loosin' the thread.

Then she smile at me, an' tha's a nice smile when she bother ter use it, an' she say, "Toby an' me live together." Well, I di'n' know where ter put myself. That don't bother me what other folks git up to, an' I know tha's the way these youngsters are now, but i felt a bit'f a fewel, not catchin' on.

Anyway, the missus then call me in fer me docky, so I bid un good day.

Well I had my bit o' bread 'n' cheese, an' a cup o' coffee, an' I tol' the missus all about it. Of course, that turn out she know more'n me already.

"Tha's their second hum," she say.

"Where'd they use ter live, then?" I ask.

"No, yer silly ol' fewel, I mean they got another hum, in London, where they work. This here's only there hum for weekends 'n' holerdies. As a matter o' fac'," she say, "They askt me roun' yesterdie while you was up town. I fergot ter mention it.They give me a key in case there's any trouble when they're not here. An' I'll tell yer suthun else, an' all. They had their weddin' photo on top o' the telly."

"So what they want ter go tellin' me they're livin' tergether for, then?"

"Well, I suppose they are, ina manner o' speakin' I reckon tha's got now so as young folk are ashamed ter say they're decently married."

I took the cups through tter the back place to rinse them, an' then I had a thought. I put my hid rpoun' the door, an' I say, "Well my dear, that look as if that make yew my significant other!"

"I'll show yew what's significant, you silly ol' bugger!" she say, "Hin't yew got nuthin' useful yew can be doin'?"

© Chris Gutteridge 2004