Books:

Trac­ing a route through his roots, with hu­mour his­tory and love, Jeremy Page re­veals the heart and soul of his home county

EDP Norfolk - - INSIDE - WORDS: Rowan Man­tell

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.

Jeremy Page

RIGHT: New York to Cal­i­for­nia by Jeremy Page

ABOVE: West Run­ton beach

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