An odd sort of spectacle

A few months ago Wells-Next-The-Sea in North Norfolk woke up one cold spring morning to find a sheep had been kicked to death by a number of teenagers. The police got involved, arrest were made, and the people of Wells felt sickened that such people exist in our society.

After reading THIS, it makes you wonder whether these youths might be labelled as talented in some countries ?


Paul Pinfield said...

I think bull fighters should be made to fight without a sword.

1. It would sort the men from the boys
2. It would instantly become an ethical sport
3. It would die out within weeks.

Malcolm Redfellow said...

Once upon a time, the youth of Wells faced real challenges.

We could go out onto the marshes, squelching our way through the sea-lavender and samphire. And knowing that we were doing something dangerous.

In those days (early 1950s), the local constabulary would bicycle up from Church Plain to the old Primary School. The address would go something on these lines:

"I know your Mum tells yew not a gow on the marshes. And I know yew do. What I wanna tell yew is, if yew see any wires or stuff sticking out, don't chew pull at 'em. Roight?"

This, of course, is before the days of dodgy gents in Rovers and Wolseleys, offering lollipops and rides home.

The point was a real one. Those marshes had been under the flight-path out of several USAAF war-time bases. If the aircraft wasn't going to make the round-trip, the bomb-load was jettisoned -- and, as far as I can guess, still there.

As for blood sports, we had a choice.

In late July and early August, we could each cut a stick and stand around the cornfield. As the reaper-binder reached the centre of the field, the rabbits made a run for it. We stood round the perimeter, chased and killed them. Each successful hunter-gatherer then slit one leporine rear leg, passed the other through it, attached the corpse to the end of the stick, and carried the trophy home. Rabbiting added to the protein intake for a fair number of my generation: myxomotosis (wilfully imported by those caring, sharing farmers) ended that sport.

Or there was my mate Barry. He invariably wore a long overcoat, with his hands deep in the pockets. I've seen Barry take a partridge on the wing with a catapult and a ball-bearing. Silent. Deadly.

Or we could hunt down grey squirrels. Take the tail to the police station and they gave you half-a-crown. A good return on that sixpenny catapult you'd bought at Thurgar's.

Sheep rustling (or the odd deer from the Holkham estate), was not unknown either.

Oh, and when the abattoir on Ramm's Marsh was slaughtering, Wells harbour was red with the blood.

Have you looked at the modern demographics and statistics for Wells? Where I sit, in my bourgeois splendour, in that context I could understand a bit of creative poaching.

So, young Nich, the issue is not "what" was done. But "why". And how far away from the crudities of survival have we come.

But you knew I would rise to your bait: admit it.

Norfolk Blogger said...

Malcolm, I know Wells very well too. I would gladly take anyone on in a "I've knocked on more doors than you in Wells" competition, I know the demographics very well indeed having done a lot of statistical analysis of the canvassing data, age data, number of children, etc, etc, when moving resources around when fighting elections (I was the agent for Wells in 2003), but I take my hat off to you for your beautiful account of life in Wells.

The point I was making though was not about the life of Wells, but that when a group of drunk youths kicked a sheep to death, we rightfully question their morality yet in some countries they encourage children to kill animals for fun.

Your experiences were really stories of necessity, for food, for pest control and for income.

Thank you so much for your comments though.

Malcolm Redfellow said...

It's Sunday, so my text is (see last paragraph) from Psalm 30:5 -- Joy cometh in the morning.

Nich: I'm sure you did a great job as ward-heeler for Wells.

I'm sure if I ventured back, my real persona would soon attract the derisive nick-name I inherited from my Uncle Frank. I do get the occasional response to my pseudonymous blog which says, "I know who you are ..."

That, though, was not my point.

Wells is the nearest thing Norfolk currently has to a gulag. There are three roads out (excluding the "dry road" -- and there's a story). A quarter of my highly-talented generation, those who could, took them.

Then came the bulldozer and "slum-clearance".

So many of those Yards, which had been there since Danish times, were excised surgically. If "they" had left them, the Yards would be as desirable as, and a lot more affordable than Mermaid Street in Rye (consider what is left!). But "they" knew better. "They" then pulled away the ladder, pulled the plug (which was -- I have, but hate to say it -- Fakenham Grammar School), "they" mechanised farming, killed off whelking, took away employment, transport (over a quarter of Wells-folk still have no private transport), affordable housing, hope ...

In return, "they" gave second-homes and yotties.

All the 2006 statistics, from OCSI, are available at: www.ruraldeprivation.norfolk.gov.uk/Settlement%20Profiles/Wells-next-the-Sea.doc

Let me nudge you towards a few realities. Wells today is smaller than at previous historical moment. Moreover, barely 12½% of the population of Wells is up to age 16: the national percentage is around 20%. The over-65s are twice the national average. Take out the professional commuters, and you see that "elementary occupations" (nice one, OCSI!) are pretty well all that is left.

Persevere, young Nich! Let your liberalism show through!

One of the most telling of those cold statistics is the Income Deprivation Affecting Children Index (IDACI): in Wells it was 21½% -- over a third above the national figure.

As for employment, well -- that's a good one. What's the biggest single employment in Wells, Nich? Yes! Shops! And after that? Hotels and catering! nearly 15%. That's a good, all-year-round occupation on the North Norfolk coast, right? Especially in February. And the fifth main employment is ... wait for it! ... estate agencies. Hmm, well, let's not mention that in the present climate.

Now, Nich, you and I are/were both teachers. So, we should both be taken aback by the 40+% of the population of Wells with no educational qualifications at all. Don't bother to look it up: that's a full third above national averages.

You are also political, as I once was. Do you remember the great President Bartlet's magnificent ex-tempore speech on the virtue of education? It's relevant to a dead sheep. It's there on YouTube [http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=eSTTc_-JTpo], if you care to remind yourself.

Paul Pinfield said...

I think Malcolm should write a book. I have been visiting Wells for 40 years and I never knew any of this.