Bottom   :  (F) Norfolk Broads   :  Full Contents

Norfolk Tales

Chapter G : The Briny

(Paras. 1 to 6)

2. The Coast :  3. The Wildlife   5. The Harvest :  6. Support Services

1 : The Blue Yonder

There must be two further vocabularies
(specialised), each probably extensive,
to describe :-
    (a)  the sea itself, in all its states
           and moods; tides, sandbanks etc.
    (b)  types of seagoing-craft, their
           rigging and other technical features.
Dear Reader,
you will find little enough of either here . . .
While I possess, within my person, the
pre-requisite of a traditional Norfolk Mariner
(i.e. I cannot swim a stroke), the water and
myself are sworn enemies.

My ignorance of all matters nautical is but
one of my many spheres of ignorance, but
one of which I am actually rather proud.
(At any rate, one where ignorance IS bliss!)

However, should the raging sea become calm,
it is said to  smoul(t).

As children we found it safer (and warmer)
to bathe in the hollows between sandbanks,
rather than in the open sea. These pools were
termed  lows.

2 : The Coast

This is quite different.
Part of the (usually) dry land,
with which we feel comfortable.

Norfolk has more than its share of sand-hills
(standard name  dunes)  acting as barriers
to the sea; their innate frailties bolstered
by the roots of the only grass which will
colonise them i.e.  marram grass.

Marrams  (pl.) is an alternate name for dunes,
often meaning the  artificial  sandbanks,
constructed and planted with marram grass.
The Norfolk version of  dunes  is  denes,
describing sandy tracts of all shapes and sizes.

ga(t)  (N.German or Danish for  way )
is a gap or channel for passing to the sea.

Alternate names for sandy uplands (which
may, in fact, lie  inland )  are :  meals  (dunes)
and  merrimills   (hills).
Scores  (see  scars ) are narrow tracks, down
cliffs and hills, leading to the beach.
A landing stage is a  staithe.

3 : The Wildlife

Few new names, I fear, but the ubiquitous
sea-gulls are  cobs (like inland horses!).

The famous Cromer Crabs
need no further mention.
(Keep mum about the  samphire !).
Porpoises, if ever spotted, are called
bo(tt)le-noose : accurate, if not very flattering?

Beachcombing has always been one way of
"living off the land", and has the same
name as its inland version i.e.  pawkin'.

Catching winkles can be a profitable task,
but in Norfolk they are called  pinpaunches :
the pin being the means of consumption!.

 

4 : The Fishing

Many a folk-song (rather than a sea-shanty)
testifies to the fear of the elements, as well as
hardness of the work, in relation to fishermen.

A Norfolk person, told something which amazes,
will often say (instead of "Well, I'm blowed")
Well, I'll go to sea. This figure of speech is,
be sure, the very opposite of any wish/intention.
This is Norfolk.....

The task of shaking herring (if any!) out of
the nets is called  scuddin'  (scud the herrin'!)

Herring are (were) familiarly known as
"silver darlings",  with a popularity the
inverse of that of the squid i.e.  squi(t).

In the form of kippers, after being dyed,
but before smoking, they were known as
"Painted Ladies" -  pairn(t)d lairdies.

5 : The Harvest

As we all know (?) quantities of catch were
measured in  crans  (e.g. 30); but kept
singular, say  tha(tt)y cran,  in Norfolk.
This was before the Common Fisheries Policy
and metrication.

Goodness knows how much a cran really was . . .
A basket containing 500 herrings
(foive hundre(t) herrin')
was called a  swill;  probably a receptacle
similar to a  skep  (of wickerwork construction).

Precisely 132 herrings comprised a
long hundred  (very long!) and  tenfold
that amount was termed a  last.

The generic term for a single fish basket
(for standard measurement) is a  ki(t).

6 : Support Services

Fishing-nets  (lin(t)s)  need maintenance :
a never-ending chore.
To  bea(t)   a net was to mend it, hence
a skilled worker was called a  bea(t)ster.
Net-making, on the other hand, had the
familiar name of  braidin(g).

Taking fish to & from market, in a fish basket,
has the same name for the basket as with
inland  use : namely a  ped.

The difficult and dangerous work (usually
entrusted to the Scots fisherwomen) of
gutting the herring, made use of
shallow troughs, known as  farlans
(possibly Scottish in origin).

Shotten or inferior herring were termed
mairzy  (mazy).


Top   :  (B) Potted History