Things To Do In Norfolk: Time And Tide Museum, Great Yarmouth.

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“Does it smell fishy in here?” My mum asked.

We all stopped what we were doing and sniffed the air.

We were on holiday in Great Yarmouth where it had been raining almost solidly for 48 hours. I love hearing rain on the roof of a caravan but even I was getting a bit fed up. As it turned out, the wet weather was a blessing because it led us to the fantastic Time and Tide Museum.

What is it?

My running buddy suggested a visit after I sent her a text recounting yet another soggy trip to the beach. That night I made the most of the free wifi while at the disco (Mark was dancing with Freya) and looked it up. I don’t mind telling you, I was excited about going the following day (and not just because the pitter patter on the roof was sending me a little crazy).

The website said:

Discover Great Yarmouth’s fascinating history, its rich maritime and fishing heritage and some of the colourful characters who made their living from the sea.

Wander through a Victorian ‘Row’ and see inside a fisherman’s home. Experience the heady atmosphere of a 1950s quayside, take the wheel of a coastal Drifter and hear gripping tales of wreck and rescue on the high seas. Follow Great Yarmouth’s transformation from a sandbank to the present day, through times of boom and bust and war and peace.

Relax in the spacious courtyard beneath a spectacular canopy of sails, surrounded by historic fishing boats.

Lively hands-on displays, games, puzzles, free audio guides, film shows and children’s activities bring the great story of Great Yarmouth vividly to life.

Pleasing three generations is never easy, although my parents are fairly relaxed, but from this description it seemed like there was something for everyone.

The reason my mum’s sensitive nose was twitching after we arrived is because the museum is housed in a converted Victorian herring curing works (it closed in the late 1980s) so the fishy smell is probably ingrained in the fabric of the building.

After a lovely welcome, we followed the signs to the recreated Victorian “Row”, which is a very impressive introduction to what the museum has to offer.

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Here you can peek into the tiny homes and shops and imagine what it must have been like to live in such close quarters. It’s fascinating stuff.

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Heading back outside and across the courtyard there was time for my dad to admire some of the boats that are currently being restored and for Captain Freya to have a quick play before we entered the next part of the museum.

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Now we stepped into the heart of Yarmouth’s maritime history, with lots of fun and interactive exhibits teaching us about the past. It is in this section that you can take the helm of a drifter, fish for all sorts of undersea creatures and do some nautical stencilling among many other things.

There are also various works of art to admire “depicting vessels and beach and quay scenes by such artists as William Joy, Joseph Nash, Rowland Fisher, members of the Norwich School and nineteenth century Italian marine artists”. Find out more here.

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Parts of the building have been left almost as they were so there’s a chance to see what a hard life it must have been for the herring workers, especially in the heyday of the early 20th century when “the fishing grounds off Great Yarmouth were the most productive in the world and the port was the most important in the country”.

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But the museum is not just about fishing. Upstairs is a fascinating range of exhibits including from the Gorleston Hoard – a collection of Bronze Age weapons and axes which were found in 1952. There’s also a section about Yarmouth during war time and, of course, the town’s transformation into a booming seaside resort (aided by the arrival of the railway in 1844 which opened it up for mass tourism).

While we were visiting there was also a touring exhibition, Titanic: Honour and Glory  (until September 24), about the most famous ocean liner in the world. It includes an exploration of some of the local links, which I found interesting.

One of the bits both Freya and I loved the most was the memorabilia section, which includes television, music and toys. Freya became rather attached to an old fashioned rotary dial telephone (which we had when we first got a home phone) and was having some lovely imaginary conversations with all sorts of people.

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Once you’ve finished exploring there’s a shop and also a lovely cafe, where we stopped for a snack.

What did we think?

Everyone loved it. This well-set out museum is a lot of fun and kept us entertained all morning. We will definitely be heading back again (even without the rain) when Freya is older – although there was plenty for her to enjoy at three, even if she didn’t understand it all.

Costs.

Adult – £5.70.
Concession – £5.40.
Child (four-18) – £4.55.

There are also family packages and a twilight deal.

You can find full information and opening times here.

Top tip.

There’s a car park (next to a play area) just across the road from the museum.

Norfolk Museums Service has produced a little promotional video, which you might find interesting.

Book Review (And Excerpt): The Beta Mum – Adventures In Alpha Land.

image1Navigating playground politics was one of the many things I was worried about when Freya started nursery last September.

Thankfully, there haven’t been any issues (so far). In fact, the other mums have been really lovely and nothing like what poor Sophie, the highly relatable heroine in Isabella Davidson’s debut novel, encounters.

She has been transported to the bright lights of London – something Isabella, who writes the popular blog, Notting Hill Yummy Mummy, knows a thing or two about.

After her young daughter starts at an exclusive nursery, Sophie encounters the Alpha Mums for the first time. Not sure who they are? Have a read of the blurb and you’ll see:

When Sophie Bennett moves from a quiet sleepy suburb of Toronto to glitzy west London, she doesn’t know where she has landed: Venus or Mars. Her three-year-old daughter Kaya attends Cherry Blossoms, the most exclusive nursery in London, where Sophie finds herself adrift in a sea of Alpha Mums. These mothers are glamorous, gorgeous, competitive and super rich, especially Kelly, the blonde, beautiful and bitchy class rep.

Struggling to fit in and feeling increasingly isolated, Sophie starts ‘The Beta Mum’, an anonymous blog describing her struggles with the Alpha Mums. But when her blog goes viral, she risks ruining everything for herself and her daughter. How long will it be until they discover her true identity? Is her marriage strong enough to survive one of her follower’s advances? And will she ever fit in with the Alpha Mums?

As a blogger, who occasionally writes about nursery life, the premise of Beta Mum immediately appealed to me – especially when it was clear that her posts were going to get her into trouble. I can totally see why Sophie starts her blog; it’s like a much-needed friend to talk to (especially when people start commenting).

I felt genuinely upset for her. The behaviour she initially has to contend with at the nursery gates is dreadful – it’s like being back at (a really terrible) school herself. Some of the things that happen to her actually made me cringe – and the worst part is, while it is a work of fiction, much of it is based on fact.

I think that’s part of the reason why it’s hard to put the book down. Isabella writes an eye-opening account of the (quite often over the top) lives of the super rich and their children, which also makes for entertaining reading. However, behind the glitz and glamour, the cutting barbs and backstabbing are real people with real problems and in the end I almost felt sorry for some of the Alpha Mums.

With plenty of drama and also a few laughs along the way, this book is an engaging read right from the start. But, don’t just take my word for it, scroll down for an excerpt.

Format: Kindle.

Price: £3.99.

My rating: Four stars.

The Beta Mum – Chapter Eleven Excerpt – by Isabella Davidson.

A huge life-sized, plush, golden giraffe with scattered spots stared at me giving me the eye, as if to say ‘I know who you are, Sophie Bennett, you’re not one of them. You’re one of us. You’re an onlooker.’ The winding staircase of Serafina’s member’s club had led me down into Serafina’s nightclub where I had found myself face to face with the giant giraffe.

I had read up on (googled) Serafina’s before coming; it was an exclusive member’s club costing £3,000 a year for a membership and had welcomed everyone from Tom Cruise to Prince William through its doors with three bar areas, two restaurants, one nightclub and 16 hotel rooms. The restaurant had poached a chef from Nobu and served fusion-food classics including tuna tartare, lobster tempura and black miso cod. The bar areas channelled the Dolce Vita vibe, with white-uniformed barmen, serving Martinis to show off their mixology skills and drinks made with absinthe.

The nightclub had an upscale, louche, bordello-like feel to it, in keeping with its location, the old respectable (or rather unrespectable) red light district in Mayfair. It was dark and windowless, with its burgundy walls draped with red velvet curtains. On my left stood a glittering bar where late twenty-somethings with youthful aspirations were dressed to impress and stood drinking champagne and colourful cocktails adorned with edible flowers. On my right, I saw some familiar faces from the nursery pick-ups and drop-offs heading towards the direction of a private room.

I squeezed Michael’s hand as we walked in their direction. My heart pounded just a bit faster than I wanted it to and my social anxiety increased with every step I made towards the private room. I wanted to be anywhere but here, ideally sitting in front of our TV with my Roots sweatshirt/sweatpants combo or in front of my laptop, hiding behind a screen rather than exposing my vulnerabilities to the Alphas. This was not the usual parents’ evening in the school gym with soft-drinks-and-pizza-slices.

That night, Kelly wore a tight, cerulean, asymmetrical, skin-tight dress, and Becky wore a wrap dress with what looked like a flowery red, pink and purple print. I sidled up to them, seeing no other familiar faces and since they were standing next to Michael.

‘Hi, it’s nice to see both of you again. I wanted to ask you about the winter fair and how I could volunteer,’ I said to both of them.

Kelly’s face looked blank, not registering who I was, despite having met numerous times.

‘Hi Sophie,’ Becky said. ‘We are planning on sending out an email about the winter fair in the next few days,’

‘Oh, I didn’t recognise you at all, Sophie darling.’ Kelly’s face now showed some recognition. ‘You look completely different in a dress and heels. You look … taller … and prettier. Don’t you usually always wear jeans and converse?’

‘Yes … but I thought I should try to “Keep up with the Cherry Blossoms Mums” tonight.’ I tried to crack a joke, which clearly went over their heads, as they continued to look at me as if I were commenting on the weather.

‘You should dress up more often, Sophie, you look so much better in a dress. And you should wear make-up. It really brings out your eyes,’ Kelly went on. ‘And it’s nice to see you wearing proper shoes. We’re a bit too old to be wearing Converse, don’t you think?’ She gave me her pursed, condescending smile.

What I really wanted to do was roll my eyes at her, but I decided that it was too early in the night to start making enemies. Instead, I gulped down my champagne and took another one from a passing waitress.

‘Kelly, I love your shoes!’ Becky exclaimed, looking down at Kelly’s shoes as if they were made of gold, diverting the conversation away from my apparently underachieving daily dress sense.

‘Oh, thanks, Becky,’ Kelly contently smiled. ‘They’re Zoe Phillips.

‘Who’s Zoe Phillips?’ I shyly asked, feeling ignorant.

‘You don’t know Zoe Phillips?’ Kelly looked at me incredulously and patronisingly, wide-eyed, with faint disdain as if I had admitted to never having heard of Nelson Mandela or Martin Luther King. ‘They’re Jimmy Choos but better. And much more exclusive. She’s the hottest shoe designer right now. I had to wait four weeks for them to be made – bespoke – and to have my initials inscribed in the sole. Just in case I lose them.’ She laughed. ‘Do you know she’s going to be a Cherry Blossoms mum soon? She has a 1-year-old and lives in Notting Hill, so it’s really close to her.’

‘I live in Notting Hill.’ I said, trying to make up for my embarrassment.

‘Oh, I lived in Notting Hill once, but it was too dodgy. I realised that I am an Upper East Side girl at heart,’ Kelly said. ‘So now I live in Kensington and I feel much safer.’

Kelly couldn’t help herself but to criticise every word I uttered. I took another sip of my champagne and then moved on to a Martini to assuage Kelly’s criticisms.

Thank you to Isabella for letting me read her book and include an excerpt here and also to the lovely Clare from Mud and Nettles for putting us in touch.

 

A Look Behind The Book With A Bogie.

_RD90748You would be hard-pressed to come up with a better name for an author of children’s books than A Bogie but is it a nom de plume?

In my latest Behind The Book interview, I quiz Anna about her surname and discover more about her popular series of Happy Hooves picture books – the most recent of which, Yuk!, was published last year.

The busy mum of three is fascinated by how children learn to read and is convinced that rhyming and poetry are a huge help in aiding language and reading skills. I love rhymes – although, having attempted to write a rhyming poem once, I know it is not as easy as it might seem.

Anna also offers a couple of great tips at the end, which I am sure are important for all authors.

Here we go.

First things first, A Bogie is surely the most perfect name for the writer of children’s books?

A Bogie is a brilliant name for a children’s author – unbelievably it is my actual (married) name and not just a nom de plume. It isn’t the easiest name in the world to have but at least this career makes the most of it.

Where are you from originally and where do you live now?

I was born and grew up in Norwich and I now live in Gibraltar.

Have you always wanted to be a writer? What made you decide to write for children? 

I have always wanted to write but my career post university was actually in marketing. Having decided that I wanted a change from corporate life, I tried my hand at writing for children. It’s my favourite kind of writing because it’s so much fun and a real break from everyday life.

Your debut picture book series, Happy Hooves, was inspired by your life in Spain. How much impact does your location (and other aspects of your life) have on the subject matter of your books?

Location does have an impact because the area you are in sits on your conscience. I used to live in natural parkland outside of a beautiful place called Tarifa, in the south of Spain. It is very rustic and the animals roam freely, I couldn’t help but be inspired by the area and so location played a big part in Happy Hooves. Another big aspect of my life is that I am a mum to three gorgeous kiddiwinks – Reuben, Amabel and Lachie, and they provide constant inspiration with their general chatter.

 

How did you find out it had been accepted for publication? What was that like?

I had two very small children when I found out Happy Hooves, Ta Dah! was going to be published, it was very exciting but also slightly overwhelming as I hadn’t expected it to happen at that time. A picture book takes a long time to come together and it all felt quite unreal until I actually held the book in my hands. Fat Fox Books is a brilliant publishers and they’re very supportive – I call Holly, the managing director of Fat Fox Books, my Fairy Godmother because she made my wish come true.

How much say do you have over the illustrations? Is it a team effort? What was it like seeing your characters as someone else sees them? Were they as you imagined?

The publishers had full control over the illustrations for Happy Hooves and I was absolutely thrilled that they chose Rebecca Elliott. She is incredibly talented and made Happy Hooves more beautiful than I could ever have hoped. If you ever visit Tarifa, you’ll see how well she has caught the essence of the place, even though she hasn’t been there.

During a creative writing course, years ago, we had an exercise to come up with a children’s tale (or the start of one). I remember people muttering about how “easy” it would be but the majority of the class really struggled. Have you come across this attitude before? If so, is it frustrating?

Writing a children’s book is very intense, every word has to be perfect because you are working with so few, there is absolutely no room for unnecessary details. Children are very harsh critics and won’t read a book unless it keeps them captivated and so there is a huge amount of work to make sure the story will not lose the child, even for a second. People may think writing a children’s story is easy but the writing is actually only one part of being an children’s author – it is hugely competitive and most writers have to go through a lot of rejections before anything is published so it’s all about the long haul struggle to be honest and whether you can stay in it for the long run.

How does it feel to know you’re engaging a younger audience? That your books could be among the first they have ever read? Do you feel any pressure? 

Now I do…! I love writing for a younger audience, but I don’t feel a pressure, just a privilege if mine is one of the books they read. All I can hope for is that they ask to read it again, and enjoy it. I especially love visiting schools where you get to engage with children directly, it is really rewarding and the questions can be brilliant.

What are you working on at the moment? And do you write better at set times or can you sit down whenever and get straight to it? 

At the moment I’m working on a book for a Scottish charity, which should be published as an ebook this year. I’m also working on a new series of books that unfortunately I can’t divulge upon yet.

Is there any advice you could give to would-be authors? Something you would have found useful when you started?

Firstly, it’s all about the editing and making sure that every word deserves its place on that page.

Secondly, an author has to do a lot of their own self-promotion and create their audience. I’ve found this very hard and I am working a lot on my social media so that I can get myself out there.

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A massive thank you to Anna for answering my questions. I had no idea just how much authors, even ones with big publishers, have to peddle their own wares. It seems like a great idea to start building up your social media presence in advance.

Speaking of which, you can find out more about Anna via her website, which also has some great free colouring activities to download and print, and follow her on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

For more Behind The Book posts please click here. I’ve got two more fabulous authors lined up for next month. I can’t wait to post them.