I’ve seen it differently
Vision and volunteers can transform the everyday into the extraordinary
Whizzing down the helter skelter, the glories of Norwich Cathedral swirling around me, was so much fun I barely had time to make an in-depth study of the medieval art and architecture too. Luckily there were people at the top to point towards the beautiful roof bosses, as well as help manoeuvre mats and bodies on to the slide and speed us on our way down.
Those incredible roof bosses, each a snapshot of a story carved in stone, depict the Bible, from creation to final judgement. However, even a full-size helter skelter was not high enough to see the amazing artistry of each boss. I am now very much hoping that the Rev Andy Bryant, who had the brilliant idea to bring the helter skelter into the cathedral for 11 glorious, giddy days, will now turn his mind to a Go-Ape style column-clamber and archtop walkway to allow us even closer to the unparalleled works of art high above us, followed by a zip-wire descent.
Instead I bought Paul Hurst’s photographic book of the bosses to take an even closer look at treasures such as Noah planting a vineyard, a Norfolk farm cart submerged in the literally red Red Sea and Christ disappearing into heaven, with just his feet to go as his amazed apostles gaze upwards, and was persuaded to join friends on a guided tour of the cathedral and cloisters.
I had thought I was pretty good on the cathedral. Indeed I’d been doing my best impression of a tour guide, pointing out the altar painting which had been turned into a table to hide it from the terrible destruction of fundamentalists, the font made from a chocolate factory mixing bowl and the seat of the ancient bishops. But I had never seen Shrek, carved circa 1280, or heard the story of the bronze pelican buried in the Bishop’s garden. Neither had I stood inside a cube papered with the entire Bible or seen so many people enjoying exploring our cathedral.
Thousands came to Seeing It Differently. It is an excellent title, and an excellent concept to carry out of the cathedral and into the rest of life – along with many more excellent concepts for the rest of life which can be found at the cathedral.
Seeing our surroundings differently can transform the everyday into something magical. It doesn’t even take a helter skelter to turn a routine trip to town into an experience. Although a ferris wheel in Fakenham, carousel in Cromer and swing boats in Swaffham would be fun.
I recently saw Great Yarmouth differently. Instead of my usual approach by road from the west, we arrived by footpath from the north, through the magnificent dunes. It was a warm day and we had stopped to swim a few times on our walk from Winterton. We could have been on a Mediterranean island, only there were fewer people around. And once we reached the town itself there was the wonder of the restored Venetian Waterways.
A group of Yarmouth people had the vision to see a future for the drained pond and drab channels and gardens. It is enchanting. I won’t go quite as far as to say we could have been in Venice, but a Yarmouth Waterways, with its sinuous streams, stunning planting, graceful bridges and thatched pavilions, could even enhance the Venetian lagoon.
ABOVE: The helter skelter installed in Norwich Cathedral as part of their Seeing It Differently project