Wensum, by Jim Harding, January 27, 2015

File photo dated 21/7/2011 of a cup in front of a Costa Coffee shop. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Tuesday October 23, 2012. The owner of Premier Inn and coffee chain Costa said half-year profits rose 11% today after market-beating performances from its two leading brands. Whitbread, which employs more than 40,000 people at 2,500 sites in the UK, achieved the haul of �193.4 million for the six months to August 30 after total revenues climbed 14.2% to just above �1 billion. See PA story CITY Whitbread. Photo credit should read: Lewis Whyld/PA Wire ENGEMN00120121023145941
File photo dated 21/7/2011 of a cup in front of a Costa Coffee shop. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Tuesday October 23, 2012. The owner of Premier Inn and coffee chain Costa said half-year profits rose 11% today after market-beating performances from its two leading brands. Whitbread, which employs more than 40,000 people at 2,500 sites in the UK, achieved the haul of �193.4 million for the six months to August 30 after total revenues climbed 14.2% to just above �1 billion. See PA story CITY Whitbread. Photo credit should read: Lewis Whyld/PA Wire ENGEMN00120121023145941
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This is my second attempt to compose this week’s column, having somehow managed to delete the first rendition.

As a comparative novice in computer-land I admit to all sorts of shortcomings and am fortunate to have a wife who can usually help me get back on track.

But even her expertise could not trace the missing Wensum this time despite repeated searches. Perhaps some of you experience similar dilemmas when tapping away in front of your screens.

Anyway, let’s try to recover a rough copy of my original thoughts.

I had in mind to talk about the proposal of Costa Coffee, the nation’s most widespread coffee shop chain, to open a branch in our town. As you may well know by now, the premises targeted for conversion are the former Blockbuster video shop and its neighbouring floristry on Bridge Street, both of which have now been empty for some time.

On the face of it this looks like a welcome move with the company having already applied for planning permission to our district council.

But there could well be some local unease at the prospect of such a prestigious brand flying its well-known flag here.

A recent survey by Fakenham Area Business Community indicated the best part of forty refreshment outlets in the town and Hempton, many of which are small independent businesses. Lots are certainly family-run, often on a comparative shoestring.

They add a pleasing and welcoming aspect to our townscape even if some of us consider ourselves to be rather spoilt for choice.

I do share the concerns that have been expressed by a number of traders about this most recent addition – if it gets past the planning stages.

Costa Coffee has a big reputation and has indicated that the new shop would provide some ten jobs, both full and part-time.

That will make things tough – or even tougher – for the many refreshment outlets within a couple of hundred yards of the market square It’s a competitive world out there and it would be no great surprise to me if, should this come to pass, one or two decided to throw in the towel.

As a sports-mad kid growing up in Surrey, my heroes were primarily male and white. The likes of cricketers Bedser, Lock and Laker, runners Chataway and Bannister and footballers Shackleton, Matthews, Greaves and a host more. Few black athletes were around at the time though three do stand out in my memory. They were McDonald Bailey, a world record-holder of the 100 metres sprint in the 1950s, boxer Randolph Turpin who briefly held the world middleweight title after beating Sugar Ray Robinson, and Louis Martin, who won four world and European titles in weightlifting as well as Olympic silver and bronze medals.

Louis died on January 16 and reading his obituary in one of the papers reminded me of my good friend John Fulton, himself a world power lifting champion, who died last August.

John retired here with his wife back in the 1980s and had been a strong supporter of Fakenham Festival which is where I first got to know him. His home in Sculthorpe Road included a weight training ‘shed’ where he held regular teaching sessions with anyone interested in keeping themselves fit – including myself. Through this association I discovered that for many years John had not only followed the career of Louis Martin but had also coached him during his pomp to some of his notable triumphs.

Never a boastful man, he mentioned this fact to me almost in passing. In reading about Louis’ life and achievements I found it impossible not to be reminded again of John and the ‘shed’.