I am so looking forward to this week. We’re staying with friends, Keith & Pepi Simpson, in Reepham. It’s meant to be a bit of a holiday but seeing as we’re househunting in Norfolk and I also have to spend a day in the EDP archives researching my new book on Norwich City FC’s history, it will be more like a busman’s holiday. It will be fantastic to see lots of old friends and revisit some old North Norfolk haunts. Rarely does a week go by without me yearning for the day when I can move back to Norfolk permanently. You can take the boy out of Norfolk, but you can’t take Norfolk out of the boy.

Talking of which, we spent much of yesterday afternoon looking for properties in local estate agents in Cromer and North Walsham. To my utter delight and surprise we found a cottage for sale in the village of Swanton Abbott, the very same village I lived in from 2003-2005. And this cottage is only 100 yards away from my old one. I’d dearly love to buy back my old cottage but the new owners have ruined it by adding an extension on the back. Vandalism. We’re going to look at the new one on Tuesday. I just hope it lives up to expectations. The only drawback is the massive size of the garden. You won’t be surprised to know what my fingers are not very green.

Saturday night was spent in the Ostrich pub in Castle Acre with Gillian Shephard, her husband Tom, Lord & Lady Hennessy and my colleague from Biteback Publishing, Sean Magee. We were celebrating the publication of Gillian’s book, KNAPTON (which you can read more about HERE.). The evening ended in a rather bizarre way with Peter Hennessy and I serenading the pub with our rather out of tune version of I’M FOREVER BLOWING BUBBLES’. You see, Hennessy is a fellow West Ham sufferer, I mean supporter.


This afternoon we went to see our friends Bert and Sylvia in Overstrand, a small village a couple of miles along the coast from Cromer. They will always have a special place in my hearts as they were the ones who put me up for the first two months after I was selected as candidate in North Norfolk in 2003. They had a delightful house in Roughton (where I am told John Hurt now resides) and I loved living with them. Bert is suffering from bad health now, which is such a shame for such a wonderfully bombastic Texan. Sylvia is a real North Norfolk hero. She’s wonderfully vivacious, and has a very cheeky glint in her eye. John and I will always be in their debt for the wonderful support and friendship they gave us.

We then went to visit another old friend, Eve Collishaw, at her North Norfolk hideaway in Trimingham. She used to be both a Norfolk county councillor and a Norwich city councillor, but is now retired. She told us she’s selling up. The glint in Simmo’s eye had to be seen to be believed. It really is an amazing property. It’s a wooden structure, so totally unmortgageable, but its situation is astonishing, I reckon it has one of the best views in Norfolk. I wonder…


Well, we went to look at the Swanton Abbott house. Simmo loved it, I didn’t. The garden was huge, but the rooms were incredibly small. In any case, half an hour later we got a call from agent to tell us they had had four offers on it and it had no sold. And they say the housing market is static!

We really want to buy the place in Trimingham, but how can we finance it? We go back for another look. Eve wasn’t there but we have a mooch round the outbuildings and take some photos.

In the evening we went for a pub lunch at the Cross Keys in Smallburgh, near North Walsham, with James Carswell, my erstwhile campaign assistant inthe 2005 election. He’s now a county councillor and cabinet member for Culture, media and choirboys. At least, that’s what I think he said. Suffice to say we had a reet laff.


We decided to go into Norwich to pick up a painting I had bought several weeks ago, having seen it in the EDP. It’s by a North Norfolk artist called Cornelia Fitzroy. In a way, I was dreading it. What if I didn’t like it ‘in the flesh’? I needn’t have worried. THe colours are less vivid than they were in the paper, but maybe that’s a good thing. On the way back to Reepham, we called in to see Deborah & Mike Slattery at their home on the outskirts of north Norwich. Deborah used to be a Conservative Party agent and she was my campaign manager in 2005. That evening we had dinner at the Kings Arms pub in the market square in Reepham with Keith Simpson. We sat outside as it was so hot. Anyone who knows the market square will know what a wonderful place it is. You can imagine you’re back in the 1940s or 1950s.


I spent most of the day at the Eastern Daily Press researching my new book on Norwich City. I discovered some fabulous photos so it was time well spent. The book will appear next spring. We then paid a final visit to Eve to discuss the Trimingham house. It looks like she intends to put it in an auction, which will probably blow us out of the water. Oh well, it was a nice though while it lasted.

We decided to call in on my parents in Saffron Walden on the way home to Tunbridge Wells. My mum likes surprises. My father wasn’t hapy as his combine harvester had broken down. Again. And as soon as we arrived it poured with rain, along with some spectacular thunder and lightning.

We finally made it home around 11.30pm. To a very empty house, devoid of canine woofings. Not for much longer though.