Tracing a route through his roots, with humour history and love, Jeremy Page reveals the heart and soul of his home county
A love letter to our county
It sounds like a riddle. How can a journey from New York to California be rooted, and routed, in Norfolk? Answer, when New York is a village in Lincolnshire and California is on the east coast of Norfolk.
New York to California is a magical, magnetic book, trawling across the bump of the east of England to reveal its heart in everything from the nicknames of Sheringham fishing families to Broads chalets festooned with fading ornaments, and from the level landscapes of the fens to the levity of the stallholders of Norwich Market.
Jeremy Page was born in Lincolnshire and grew up in Norfolk and his walk, bike and boat ride into and through his home county is a journey back to his childhood, with diversions even further afield, to the foundations of the Flat Earth Society, to a prostitute-saving preacher eaten by lions, to the first humans to leave a trace in northern Europe and to many more of the stories and landscapes he encounters.
It is beautiful, fascinating and funny; a love letter to East Anglia, a travelogue, a memoir, nature writing and history. By turns
ramshackle and dreamy and then smart as science, the book reveals some of the wonders of the east, dredging treasure from flatlands, industrial estates and holiday camps as well as from the betterknown beauty spots of the coast and countryside.
The past is constantly bleeding into Jeremy’s 21st century journey, as he tries to place grainy photographs taken by his grandfather and shadowy memories of his own growing up in Sheringham, West Runton, and Norwich.
For much of his journey he is accompanied by an eccentric, enigmatic, highly-educated, discerning and sometimes disconcerting friend, Heath, and a whippet called Half Shandy.
Jeremy sleeps on a beach, in a budget hotel and in his childhood bedroom, ventures out on a crab boat, chances upon a cattle auction in Norwich, talks about the giant jawbone he once found. It was from a dead whale beached and blown up at Brancaster and kept in his Norwich garden, and the time he almost crewed the Albatros (now a pancake restaurant moored in Wells) across the North Sea. Jeremy and Heath delight in collecting scraps of overheard conversation, meet a man who controls the flow of rivers at Denver Sluice, canoe through disorientating jungle-like swamps, and rest in a churchyard full of giants. A love of Norfolk sings from every page.
“Writing New York to California has been a passion project for me, bringing together my love for East Anglia with the stories passed down to me by my family, and encountering new stories on the way. I thought I knew the
“I thought I knew the landscape intimately, but crossing it this way revealed a new East Anglia for me”
landscape intimately, but crossing it this way revealed a new East Anglia for me, full of strange texture and perplexing horizons,” said Jeremy.
“There were occasions when I was standing on a floodbank in driving rain, when I really questioned what I was doing. But the sheer beauty of the region began to transcend all that and all the blisters, too. At one point the journey passes through the village where I grew up on the north Norfolk coast, and approaching that, where every flint on the beach started to become familiar, was the greatest pleasure.”
From a childhood in north Norfolk, including an early attempt to set up a pizza van in Sheringham with his brother, Jeremy went on to write novels and work as script editor for the BBC, Channel 4, Film 4 and Netflix. He has also taught on the creative writing course at the University of East Anglia.
New York to California is subtitled A journey across the east of England looking for the not quite visible, but what it reveals, as the journey meanders along roads, paths and waterways, and from deep history to the present day, creates a mesmerising, almost otherworldly story.
New York to California by Jeremy Page, is published by Propolis, the imprint of The Book Hive bookshop in Norwich.
RIGHT: New York to California by Jeremy Page
ABOVE: West Runton beach