When it comes to dating, we’re always told that size isn’t everything. When it comes to dating blogs, however, there’s no point pulling out some huge long piece that no one’s going to be able to manage in one sitting.
So, having reached a sizeable word count with Jeff Koons and his merry bear pair last time, I decided to dump all the other bits and bobs about Norwich Castle here. It’s one of those delightful places presumably curated by someone who sat down and made a list of all the things that different museums might have in them – stuffed animals, oil paintings, scenes from history, and so on and so forth – but couldn’t decide between them so just ended up creating a museum with a bit of everything.
PB and I started with the stuffed animals – which may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I’m a real fan. Though I’m pretty wary around real wildlife, I’m very happy checking out ex-wildlife. Norwich Castle has a particularly fine collection of dead birds, including my personal favourite: the bufflehead duck, so called because the shape of its head is, well, pretty buffly, really. Points also went to the whimbrel, for sounding (though not looking) like a cross between an umbrella and a wimple. All specimens bore labels with comments on their affiliations with the county, from proud claims of “localised breeder” and “common visitor to Norfolk”, right through to scathing admonishments like “occasional visitor in winter” and “rare passage migrant”.
After the birds, we checked out various mammals and some seriously scary-looking fish, before turning a corner and finding ourselves facing a large seed pod affixed to the wall with the label “bum nut”. It probably goes without saying that I laughed at this for several minutes.
We wandered through the porcelain and ceramics collection, but it didn’t do a lot for me – maybe a bit of post-traumatic stress disorder after years of being told off for walking within a 5-metre radius of my grandparents’ china cabinet? The paintings were more my thing and there were a couple of nice pre-Raphaelites which stood out.
The old keep held information about the history of the castle itself, including a video simulation of what it would have looked like back in the day. (You know, in the past, when they had castles and soldiers and lots of wooden stuff.) It turned out that PB had worked on the background imagery for the video in a previous job, so I dutifully admired all the little trees and houses and fields and nodded and smiled and pretended to understand about computers and software and things.
The keep was designed to be child-friendly and, having resisted the lure of the dressing-up box, we settled down to play a game involving black and white stones which represented foxes and geese or something like that. PB trounced me three times in a row, so I concluded that he’d interpreted the rules incorrectly and that it clearly wasn’t a very good game anyway.
After the silly stones game, we spent a while inspecting a book which listed the names of local men who’d been killed in the Second World War. Never mind buffleheads, some humans have had absolutely brilliant names. I mean, in the 21st Century, you just wouldn’t find a chap called Bertie Bultitude, would you? I immediately vowed to write a novel about a character of the same name, though I suspect anyone reading it will think I’ve just made it up.
Last up was the dungeon, with lots of lovely gruesome facts and figures about poor people who’d been hanged, drawn and/or quartered for crimes like stealing an apple or other similarly valuable groceries. The dungeon featured a dressing-up box too, and this time we couldn’t resist donning the costumes of a couple of olde worlde prisoners. It was not a good look – and that’s coming from someone who’d chosen to wear a teddy bear t-shirt, elasticated maroon leggings and boys’ trainers for a date.
There was also some fun interactive stuff in the dungeon (more innocent than it sounds), so PB and I competed to see who could knock down more miniature blocks with a miniature catapult and who could build the most stable bridge using a load of sticks. I don’t actually remember, but I’m assuming I won in both cases.
Overall, well worth a visit if you have a few hours to wile away in Norfolk’s county town. Sadly, PB and I are no longer dating, so I have been consigned to the ranks of infrequent visitor to Norwich, but I can understand why others would be tempted to migrate there and perhaps even become localised breeders…