Wensum, by Jim Harding, October 4, 2016

Visitors Guide scenes around Fakenham - the church of St Peter and St Paul. ENGANL00120130801112518
Visitors Guide scenes around Fakenham - the church of St Peter and St Paul. ENGANL00120130801112518
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We’ve been experiencing the ‘coming back to reality’ syndrome this past week following our return from America.

Actually, it’s been rather nice. To quote Jane Austen, who was no great traveller: “There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort.”

One of the very few downsides of our stay in Princeton was the pesky mosquito. We were both affected despite generous squirts of repellent, my wife more so than me. Not only did these insects leave their bold imprint on our skin but the subsequent itching was also a real pest. A relatively cool Fakenham is free of such aggravations.

I have many good memories of our stay across the Atlantic but this minor one deserves sharing. I was walking back to my brother’s house from the centre of Princeton one warm afternoon. A particular front garden stopped me in my tracks. On the lawn was a small semi-circular bench behind a round table covered with a cloth. On the table was a bottle of wine with a cork at a jaunty angle and an empty wine glass beside it. Somehow this image kind of summed up for me the charm of this affluent university town.

One bit of sadness was conveyed after we had arrived at Heathrow. I was almost expecting the death of Mike Bridges as he was quite poorly when I spoke to him in Cranmer House just before we set off. He had been diagnosed with a brain tumour and a limited survival period and had foregone the misery of treatment for the sake of a few extra months. I was glad that I’d been able to sit with him on half a dozen occasions as he had been quite lucid and almost accepting of his situation. As many of you will know, Mike was a stalwart champion of both the Gas Museum and the History Society and over the years had given lectures and written booklets and pamphlets on the town’s industrial history. He also led regular guided walks. Mike grew up in Fakenham and went to the local schools during the war so his reminiscences were always of interest. I shall miss his cheerful face and always positive approach to life. His funeral service is this Friday (October 7) at Mintlyn from 12.15pm.

Having missed a night’s sleep on the flight home it took a couple of days to readjust. But I’m now picking up where I left off with riverside walks, gym classes, singing with the Harmony group and reading poetry to the elderly at the Maltings Care Home.

I looked for any changes on the local scene but found nothing much to report. There’s no evidence of significant progress with the Aldiss rebuild though it’s always been difficult to see developments behind all the barriers on Upper Market.

What I do need to remind you of is the opening this Thursday (October 6) of the parish church Flower Festival which runs for four days. This year’s theme is based around the popular hymn we all learnt at school, ‘All Things Bright and Beautiful’. Entrance is free and the festival is open daily from 10am-5pm, except Sunday to allow for the Harvest Festival service at 10.30am. In addition to the displays there are refreshments and stalls selling books and collectables. If you are in town for any reason, do make a point of visiting this wonderful spectacle.