What is your idea of perfect happiness in Norfolk?
Walking along Mundesley beach (pic below). When I was at university in Norwich in the early 1980s I used to drive out there at midnight from time to time and just wander along the beach listening to the waves crashing against the sand. It was somehow therapeutic. And when I was in the middle of the cut and thrust of fighting an election campaign in North Norfolk it was a great place to get some solitude and time to reflect. I really miss it now.
How do you relax in the County?
Norfolk ought to be one of the easiest places to be able to relax but you have to be on the right wavelength to do so. It takes a couple of days to enter the ‘Norfolk zone’. I just love driving through tranquil lanes and picturesque villages and stopping for a stroll when the mood takes me.
With which Norfolk character do you most identify?
I’m going to pick someone from the present – Gillian Shephard. Or Baroness Shephard of Northwold as we must call her. To her friends she is still known as Mrs S. I first met Gillian in the mid 1980s when she was on the County Council and I have to say she put the fear of God into me. She still doesn’t suffer fools gladly, but I’m glad to say I got to know her better a decade later when I was running Politico’s Bookstore in Westminster. She came to the opening and made a real hit with my father. She was then tremendously helpful to me when I got on the approved Conservative candidates list and has been a close confidante ever since. She’s a doughty defender of Norfolk’s interests and has done a huge amount of the county. I am a real fan.
What are your most memorable experiences in Norfolk?
Many of them come from my election campaign. Doing the Boxing Day swim in the north sea at Cromer would be one of them (pic above). I have to say I didn’t realise that coming out of the sea everything would be on display. And I wonder why I lost… Refereeing a charity wrestling match in Sheringham would be up there too. Being interviewed by a Guinea Pig for the Sheringham Independent was also a unique experience. (See below for the full interview!)
What is your opinion of Norwich?
It certainly lives up to its slogan as “A Fine City”. It’s a true regional capital. I once provoked huge laughter among friends by saying it’s got everything London has got, but on a smaller scale, but it’s true. Great restaurants, a football team, theatres, cinemas, shopping centres, a top class university, a good range of independent shops, a brilliant market. I could go on. The City’s transport planners need to be shot, but apart from that it’s a wonderful place.
When did you first live in Norfolk?
I first came to Norfolk to live in 1981 when I got a place to study German at UEA. I lived in the student residences at the old RAF barracks at Fifers Lane, by the airport. In my second year I rented a house in Wymondham and in my final year lived in one of the pyramids on campus, Norfolk Terrace. I then spent two years working for the MP for Norwich North, Patrick Thompson. The first was spent mainly in London but I then came back and lived in Silver Street in Norwich and then again in Wymondham. I also worked part time at the Green Man in Rackheath. Apart from visits, I then didn’t really come back until I was selected as Conservative Candidate for North Norfolk in late 2003. I may live in Kent during the week, and originally hail from Essex, but I regard Norfolk as my spiritual home. When I retire I intend to come back permanently. All I have to do is persuade my partner!
What do you miss most when you leave Norfolk?
The relaxed lifestyle is what I miss most. I used to live in Swanton Abbott, a delightfully quiet village near North Walsham. I will regret to my dying day selling my cottage there (pic above, with my parents), but after my election campaign I was £40k in debt and selling it was the only option. Luckily I made a £40k profit. It was a real haven. Luckily when I got back on my financial feet the first thing I did was buy another house in a village just down the road from Swanton Abbott, in Lammas. It’s a real retreat for us and I spend as much time as possible there. The dogs love it as it has a walled garden, and it’s ideally based for Norwich, The Broads and the coast. My favourite time of the year is winter, when we have a roaring log fire and hide away from the world.
What is your favourite Norfolk scene?
I love virtually every aspect of the Norfolk countryside. There’s an artist called Cornelia Fitzroy who captures it perfectly. I saw one of her paintings, The Red House, on the editorial page of the EDP (pic above), and bought the original. I’ve bought seven or eight of her works since. But I suppose the vista of Blakeney Harbour also takes some beating.
How would you spend your ideal day in Norfolk?
I would drive along the coast from Hunstanton to Happisburgh, stopping off for a walk on each beach along the way. Lunch would be from the chip shop by the harbour at Wells, tea at a café in Sheringham and dinner at the superb Jacque Restaurant in Garden Street, Cromer, which sadly no longer exists.
What’s your earliest Norfolk memory?
I grew up near Saffron Walden in Essex but as kids we used to come to Norfolk for the day very often as my mother grew up at Stibbard, near Fakenham. We’d head to Hunstanton or Wells in the back of my Godmother’s Morris Minor and enjoy the day on the beach before heading home and poking our tongues out of the back window at drivers following behind. Such pleasant children. One day we took our two dogs to Wells. It was the first time they had encountered the sea, but they soon got used to it. Drying them off for the journey home was not an experience I would care to repeat. A few years ago I found my grandmother’s unmarked grave (pic below) in Stibbard churchyard. I got quite emotional. She died in 1951 so I never got the chance to meet her.
The above is a much updated version of an interview I did with the Eastern Daily Press in 2007.
MY FULL INTERVIEW WITH GIGGLE THE GUINEA-PIG FOR THE SHERINGHAM INDEPENDENT
RIP Giggle, editor of the Sheringham Guineapendent. Just received word from my friend Tabitha Van der Does that my biggest fan in North Norfolk, her guinea pig has died. Giggle interviewed me for Tabi’s Sheringham Independent magazine once. A unique experience. As a tribute to Giggle, here’s the interview from 2 June 2004. Enjoy…
Giggle: You have very nice teeth Mr Dale. How do you keep them clean? Iain: Contrary to popular rumour I do not bite my opponents. I am on a strict diet and eat lots of fruit so that keeps my teeth nice and healthy. My new campaign slogan is DOWN WITH MARS BARS!
G: How many carrots do you eat a day? I: Not as many as you.
G: What is a Conservative and do they have any policies on guinea pigs? I: A Conservative was once described as a man who sits and thinks - mostly sits. We believe in freedom for Guinea Pigs everywhere. We totally reject the LibDem policy of taxing every squeak a Guinea Pig makes.
G: Have you ever lived with a rabbit? I: No, but my friend Jenny lives with one. She lets it roam around the house. I think she believes it is a dog.
G: Do you think I’m on Freddie Starr’s hit list? I: I think he has a mild preference for your cousin the Hamster. I would be more afraid of a visit from John Prescott if I were you.
G:I have heard you bred guinea pigs? For what purpose? i: As a good Conservative I bred them to make money. I was only 10 years old and we had about 50 at one stage. We used to sell them for 5p each. That was in the days before the rampant inflation in the late 1970s. It would be about £1 in today’s money.
G: My favourite Shakespearean quote is “Over hill, over dale” What’s yours? I: I am not very conversant with Shakespeare, I prefer Goethe. My favourite Goethe quote is Man tue was man will (Do what you want).
G: Do you agree with the philosophy of George Orwell’s ‘Four legs good, two legs bad? I: Animal Farm is one of my favourite books, so yes, I do agree. My best friend has four legs. His name is Gio and he is my Jack Russell. I wouldn’t get too near him if I were you. It might be the last thing you ever do!
G: Thank you Mr Dale. I: You are welcome, Miss Giggle.
As you can imagine, this was one of my more memorable interviews…