Wensum, October 13

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Wensum is introduced to the Lynn News readership in October 1985 with his first column.

For starters I had to tap out my copy on a portable typewriter and then put the finished article in an envelope before posting it to the office. A procedure which sounds laughable in today’s world of instant communications but seemed perfectly reasonable then.

What was that first effort like? Well, I remember wondering just how to pitch it as a relative newcomer to the town. My wife and I had moved here from Lowestoft in 1979, at which point I would have been hard-pressed to come up with anything about Fakenham other than the fact that it had a reputable printing industry and there was a National Hunt racecourse on the outskirts.

So I started by confessing my relative ignorance and suggesting that I might be able to take a fresh view of local goings-on, rather like a visitor on an extended vacation. After all, there were still loads of things for me to discover and perhaps share with readers.

As someone from a railway family which had included my grandfather, father and two uncles, I made reference in that first piece to the crossing gates on Norwich Road which had somehow survived, along with a stretch of track, the demise of the local railway system.

Baron’s Hall Lawn also got a mention as the home of our football and cricket clubs. I played football for a number of seasons with the Ghosts on that sloping pitch, encapsulating the experience with the following words: ‘These days the ground is graced with a fine new club house, the envy of many a visiting team. But it wasn’t more than a few years back that rather more primitive conditions prevailed. The wooden pavilion was so small that players had to change virtually in shifts. In winter there was a permanent draught and the ‘facilities’ were outside round the back.’ Now, as you know, the Lawn has become a housing estate and the footballers and cricketers have their own homes away from the centre of things.

I suppose what helped me in those early days was my regular attendance at town council meetings. These were housed at the time in the upstairs chamber of the Red Lion building –which is now the Gallery Bistro.

This male-dominated group was much more formal than it has become. Suits and ties were almost de rigeur and when a councillor once turned up in a rugby-type shirt he was asked not to do so again. Times have changed.

As for the ‘ways and means’, I slowly graduated to an electric typewriter and thought I had reached the cutting edge when I acquired a fax machine. How quaint is that.

There remains a fondness for those early years which has something to do with the camaraderie of it all. At least once a month I used to drive to the office after council meetings with copy and get to mix with the professionals – initially on the Hardwick Industrial Estate and then at Limes House. I loved that but nowadays it’s no longer an option.

Overall I’m so grateful to have been able to occupy this small corner of the paper for such a long time and to somehow have made it my own. A whole bundle of scrapbooks is stacked up in a corner of my study full of cuttings from 1985 onwards. Some day I may get round to re-reading them all.

n National Hunt racing returns to Fakenham this Friday (October 16) following the summer break with the first race due off at 1.40pm.