Tag Archives: Norwich

June Needs Slowing Down—I’m Having Too Much Fun

Two English granddaughters in the pool today.

Two English granddaughters in the pool today.

June is flying by way too quickly, which means I must be having a good time.

What has been occupying my time? All sorts of things:

  • Making plans for the World War I series at Mount Mercy. Scheduling is a real pain.
  • Taking piano lessons and practicing the piano. Honestly, at least a little.
  • Laying plans for next school year.
  • Hosting visitors from across the pond.

That final point is the reason I most wish I could slow June down. My daughter, son-in-law and their two daughters are visiting us right now. They live in Norwich, England, where he is a plant scientist and she is an artist and the collaborator on the “Princess Ninja” stories.

And, of course, they have two little ninja princesses of their own.

They are both charming little girls, and both are firecrackers wrapped in dynamite. They are in young childhood, a time of life full of energy and big mood swings. Mostly, they’ve been happy, and I’m very happy they’ve been around.

Miss Lizzie eats a cupcake during an unbirthday party with her sister and cousins.

Miss Lizzie eats a cupcake during an unbirthday party with her sister and cousins.

Miss Lizzie greets me almost every morning with a hug. She speaks in a polite, soft English-American accent that sounds very refined. She wears an almost perpetual grin, but also has a wild light in her eyes that you do have to watch out for.

Lizzie is going to turn 5 this fall.

Juliet, the junior partner, is a bit more reserved than her sister. But for her age, she is also bigger and louder. Lizzie has been in the British school system, and sounds almost refined. Juliet still lives mostly at home, and her accent is broader and slightly more Americanized.

If the two were cast in a Hollywood movie, Elizabeth would be the princess and Juliet would be her amusing, wisecracking, cockney-accented sidekick.

Juliet is a star, darling.

Juliet is a star, darling.

Juliet will be 3 this fall.

They leave tomorrow. Luckily, this time they won’t go far—only to Ames and they are coming back. But, too soon, they will fly back to England.

I’ll be sad to see them go. The house will be quite a bit quieter; our weekly output of garbage and recycling will be lower. I may be able to do more bicycle riding to train for RAGBRAI and more prep work for school next year.

But I’m sure I will miss June. I’ll miss the pool play, the un-birthday party, the extra use of the sandbox and swing set in our backyard, the short lives of the feeder fish, the reading, the horse rides, even the hunts for the elusive sweeties. Mostly, I will miss Juliet and Lizzie and Amanda and Matt.

And, by the way, Amanda, I’m one up in the awesome trip blogging contest!


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Rock Me, Baby

Well, here they are, the refuges from the Norfolk shore of the North Sea, settled here in Iowa in my front garden.  These are the rocks Audrey and I picked up on the beach in Great Yarmouth while visiting our daughter Amanda and her family in Norwich, England in March


Rocks rock. The black one and the grey and white one are English rocks now home here in Iowa in our front garden.


The marbled grey and white one is mine, the black one is one Audrey picked up and delivered.

Rocks are part of a running joke in the family right now—for Nikayla’s fourth birthday, Audrey promised to give her a rock, a notion Nikayla angrily rejected because, as she notes, “I don’t want a rock.”

Nor did she get one. Despite great temptation.

Rock on! And just for fun, here are a couple of rock ear worms for you:


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Final Report From Norwich, Rhymes with Porridge

Our hgosts.

The Moscous. Guess who's coming to dinner?

Which we had with nuts and raisins and bananas, courtesy of Matt one morning.

We’ve had a wonderful visit to the UK, although we are looking forward to being home.

Thanks Amanda, Matt, Lizzie and Juliet for a wonderful Norwich holiday. We’ve been to Europe and have decided it’s a friendly place we would like to come back to. Having a daughter and her family here is a major reason why, of course.

It was my get-acquainted time with Juliet, and she is a charming little baby. As Amanda notes, her personality doesn’t really come through on Skype, which she seems to recognize as a camera and gives her deer-in-the-headlights DMV look. In person, she laughs and grabs and kisses and babbles and squeals and in general is a fun kid. Although comparisons are not always fair and she is both younger and heftier, in happy personality, this little bundle of joy reminds me of her happy and mellow cousin Amelia.

What to say about Lizzie? Well, we loved our time with her. She is a cute, bubbly bundle of energy, a firecracker wrapped in TNT. As Audrey says, she can go from 0 to 60 faster than the fastest Jaguar. Over 95 percent or more of the time, she’s great to be around, to read to and play with. Less than 5 percent of the time, her eyes glaze over and the 2-year-old demon takes over – milk gets spilled, biting or kicking happens. The ratio is right, and any 2 year old will be a 2 year old. Miss Lizzie, despite any bumps or bruises or sometimes challenged eardrums, we will miss you.

And Amanda, it was lovely to spend a week with you. Lets do it again.

Matt, you were gone for a time to Wales, but fun to have around. I’m looking forward to sharing some Italian wine, courtesy of your kind neighbor, in a few minutes.

We’re glad we came. Y’all come see us again, and we’ll try to come see you again, too.

Anyway, on to other topic. A very important one, which Italian wine brought to mind:

What we ate in Norwich.

A lot of good stuff. Although most days began with cereal or toast, there were several fancier breakfasts, too. The previously mentioned, porridge was good, as was the “British” breakfast Amanda made today: beans, an egg, toast, British bacon, and mushrooms cooked with potatoes. Yum.

British breafkast.

British breakfast: The canned beans are not American pork and beans. They have a mild tomato flavor, and worked well for breakfast.

Overall, the food was mostly homemade and mostly grand. Although I suffered for it a bit due to a sudden veggie overload, I really liked the Indian feast Amanda made one night. I liked just about everything she made, including a bake of cabbage, potatoes and leftover lunch ham and some excellent mac and cheese made with yogurt and sharp cheddar.  We even had borscht for the first time and liked it.

And, of course, discovered the absolute, artery-clogging delight known as sticky toffee pudding.

And we had an excellent roast chicken feast one night.

We also had a very nice lunch at a pub, and a great Friday night fish and chips feast that Matt picked up as take away.

UEA lunch

Lunch at University of East Anglia art gallery cafe. I had the pasta. I think I won.

The cafe at UEA serves a nice lunch that we enjoyed. Several lunches were picnics with PBJs, and to be honest, Americans know a lot more about peanut butter than the Brits. Still, they were meals that worked for quick picnics.

Amanda taught me the banana peanut butter and Nutella hot dog. Yum.

Amanda and Matt belong to a local farm’s veggie program, and get weekly packets. It forces Amanda to be creative to use them up, hence a cauliflower curry that was part of the Indian feast. It also meant we ate many healthy, fresh veggie dishes. Between the diet and the walking, Audrey and I feel we are arriving back in Iowa lighter and healthier than when we left, if maybe a bit more tired.

Really, there were no lows about eating in Norwich. Both Amanda and Matt are excellent cooks, and we enjoyed their talents.

So, if you have the chance to say at Moscou Place in Norwich, I highly recommend it. Bon apetit!

Pub lunch.

My pub lunch Thursday. It was good but Audrey ordered fish and chips and won.

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11 Signs That You Might Be In Norwich

Train sign.

Sage advice from British Railways.

UK signs seem quaint to my American eyes. The one above was on the train to Great Yarmouth, but I thought it could make a great header for a blog.  Norwich signs seem wordy and polite, no parking signs start with the words “polite notice.”  While there are signs that say “fire exit,” most other exits are labelled, sensibly, “way out.”  At least they are not “way out, man.”  And dear readers, stay with this post to the end, where there is a royal treat!

Street sign

I like street names in Norwich, but only quiet side streets seem to have signs. They are low on the sidewalk, more for walkers rather than drivers.

Street signs are interesting, primarily because they don’t exist in American form.  Side streets are labelled with signs on buildings or walls, but the Brits assume you already know what a main street is, so you don’t need to be told.  The only place I saw lots of “American” street signs on poles is city centre — in the lanes where cars mostly can’t go.

Speed limit

Speed limit of 30? But, 30 what?

This was one of the only speed limit signs I’ve seen (at least I assume that’s what it is).  For the most part, there must be a set in-town limit that does not need to be posted.  This sign is in semi rural area I saw on one of my bike rides.

Pub fire warning

Warning sign in a pub. Read this when a fire starts.

British signs seem to be wordier than American ones, and also a bit polite and deferential.  This is a tiny detail of the fire warning sign that was in the Norwich pub where I had lunch today.  Among my reactions, besides thinking anybody would burn to a crisp trying to read this while flames licked at them,  I just also find the tone very cute.  Save everyone if you can, using “the appliance provided,” and only if you can do so safely.

Easter sign

Oh darn. I'll be back in Iowa and will have to miss oyster day.

Some signs reflect traditions that don’t make sense to American eyes.  For some reason, I just don’t think “oysters” when I think “Easter.”

Meet the sign.

Get it?

And some signs just have bad puns.

Mait logo

Side of mail van. What do commoners use?

Technically, not a sign, this is the side of a mail van.  Mail boxes look like giant red mushrooms.

Coffe shop.

"Americano" is espresso with water added.

I put this one in just because I like the name of the business.  And food is not “to go” here, it is “take away.”

Norwich restaurant.

"American" is a fairly common brand in Norwich.

One more eatery sign from city centre.  Who knew Captain America had a shop here?

Do not queue.

How nice. A park, just for cars.

A sign with a long explanation.  In Cedar Rapids, it would say “no line.”

Miss LIzzie.

Miss Elizabeth with some appropriate informal signage. One letter she does know is capital E, and any she sees makes her think a signs says "Elizabeth."

Finally, Miss Lizzie with a bit of graffiti, complete with a dropped H so it “sounds” English.  And no, none of us wrote it.  My theory is the Queen was feeling feisty and just happened to have a Sharpie with her, so ….



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The Flowers of Chapelfield Gardens

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At least I think that’s the name of the park we were at near City Centre in Norwich today. We’ve been there more than once — Saturday, a charity sports race was going on, and there were dancers, racers and trampolines.

Lizzie saw the dancers doing some variation of break dancing, and promptly did her own version, which mean bending down, sticking her butt high in the air, and waving one leg around.

Today was a big tourist day for use in Norwich, but it began with a quiet play trip. Amanda had a book group at the library, so while she took Juliet with her, Audrey and I took Elizabeth to the park.

I think she thoroughly enjoyed having two grandparents to boss around and play with, although she did spend a little time pointlessly wandering around, looking for the trampolines that were not there.

Anyway, due to our tourist plans — we visited the castle, the cathedral and the river walk today — I had my good camera and, naturally, shot a few flower photos.

Tomorrow? Great Yarmouth, so I’ll have a report then from the North Sea.

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Heading Down the Big Slide

The big slide

Lizzie starting on a ride down the big slide on the hill at a park in Norwich, England.

I don’t recall the name of the park, but it was in Columbia, Missouri. When Audrey and I were in graduate school, now and then one of us would end up having to spend some time with the kids in Columbia, or we would meet for a picnic lunch, and this park was a favorite place.

It had a small lake, but that wasn’t the park’s true attraction. It also had a tall play hill. A slide with three chutes had been built into the hill, the longest chute going from the summit down into a sandy play area at the bottom.

I thought of that park today in Norwich. We spend part of the day at several different parks, the final one being a quite neighborhood play area with a slide built on a hillside.

The advantage of this design is you can have a pretty steep slide, but also not have it far from the ground, since if follows the slope of a hill.

This particular slide had a paved area beside it, and besides riding the slide, Lizzie liked to pick pine cones and sticks and send them tumbling down the area beside the slide.

Slides are an interesting plaything. They are a test of children’s climbing ability and their bravery. Kids learn early how to go down, sometimes on their tummy before they learn to sit.

There was a young English girl at the park today, a bit younger than Lizzie, I think. She watched Lizzie going down the slide, and it took some time before she was ready to go down herself.

But, eventually, she did. And she liked it. Like so many fun things in life, slides appear more scary than they are.

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This is Norwich …

Lizzie and Audrey

Audrey reads a book to Lizzie at the children's section of the city centre public library in Norwich, England.

Fortunately, no blitz to report. It’s day two of your correspondent’s visit to Norwich, England.

As expected, playing with the grandchildren has been the highlight. Lizzie apparently remembers Grampa Joey, as she calls me, and Mama, and her grandmother is called.

Juliette isn’t sure who I am yet, but she is a social and agreeable baby, and can easily be coaxed into a smile.

So far, the trip has featured several satisfying walks, as well as playtimes and various parks. If the whole plant scientist gig goes south, Matt and Amanda could open a very nice restaurant—the eating has been good. I tasted borscht for the first time, and have decided that beets are edible.


Roof line in residential Norwich--closely packed townhouses are the norm.

Some other observations on life on the eastern side of the pond:

  • Houses in Norwich are tiny, by American standards. Matt and Amanda’s three-bedroom townhouse would fit in some basement rumpus rooms. Yet, it feels quite large enough for a small family—in architectural terms, I suppose I think it’s the American standards that make less sense. The houses in Norwich are mostly connected in long rows, with tiny fenced front gardens and small fenced back gardens. Despite this, there is more trees and open space than I expected in urban England, which is a pleasant surprise.
  • Buildings here are older, interesting and much more muted in hue. Brick is a very dark red—common American red bricks are brighter and redder. The sidewalks here are either very dark grey cement blocks or, more commonly, what appears to be road tar mixed with rock. The streetscape is just a lot darker, as a result. Not in some unpleasant, dour way—the darker hues don’t seem somber, just different.
  • Park equipment is sturdy and serious looking. They go in for more metal and thick wood. Swing sets here look like they are built to withstand gale force winds, which in this part of the world, they probably are. The equipment looks “old school” to American eyes—but not overly dangerous. In fact, I’ve been impressed at the number of parents and kids at playgrounds—parks are smaller here, but much busier.
  • Drivers seem more polite here. Streets are very narrow, so when walking, you’re very close to traffic. But, if you step into a crosswalk, the cars all stop for you. Bikers are common, and sometimes can whiz by and startle you, but for the most part, bikers are considerate of pedestrians, too. Norwich is more compact than Cedar Rapids, and people here walk more. City Centre, what the downtown of Norwich is called, is small shops and busy sidewalks, plus an ancient and colorful central market. It would be hard to visit Cedar Rapids and not have a car to get around in. While I’m sure there would be times when an auto would be handy, doing Norwich by foot is fine.
  • The city library is nice.I liked the system they have in their children’s section—there are bins of unsorted children’s books around the walls. That would not aid you if you’re looking for a particular book, but it’s meant for kids to browse in. Having such accessible books for kids makes sense. Book reviews by 8 and 9 year olds were posted on the wall. The kids illustrate like kids, but have excellent penmenship and are very literate.
    Amanda and Juliette

    Amanda and Juliette, out for a stroll in a play area near a school.

    Anyway, no doubt I will write more later. The visit and the company and the food have been excellent.


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