I recently enjoyed a solo writing holiday in Cromer, Norfolk, and wanted to share a few photographs and observations here on Jack of Hearts. I'll be writing up a piece for Gay Times shortly about where to stay, eat, and what to do - so keep a look out for that.
I chose Cromer because I wanted a coastal break, but not somewhere with too much noise or distractions (i.e. Brighton or Bournemouth), but somewhere that wasn't too far to travel from London. Cromer was perfect with its sleepy second-hand book shops, tea rooms and faded Victorian grandeur. The people in Cromer were lovely too, and the sea air was a great change to the grimy musk of London. It takes 3 hours to get there on the train, with return tickets costing about £45 last minute.
A sunken pill box on the beach walking towards Runton. The coastline here has receded a lot so this box would have once been a little more inland. It's strange to imagine a band of Norfolk lads inside, only a few decades ago, keeping watch for a Nazi invasion. This photo was taken at about 2pm. By 4pm the tide had completely covered it.
Anastasia's is Cromer's only nightclub. It's a basement club built into the depths of the sea defense wall and it is only open at the weekend. Locals call it 'The Pits', and usually give it a miss preferring to travel into nearby Norwich if they fancy a boogie.
Nautical themed light displays line the upper coastal paths around Cromer. This particular design is a shrimp. A bit creepy if you ask me. Very Studio Ghibli.
Part of the upper coastal path at night. It's really dramatic with the rolling waves to the right, and as your eyes adjust to the darkness - the Norfolk coastline stretching out for miles.
This photo from the 1870s shows a very similar seafront to the Cromer that is there today. This collier ship was bringing coal in from Sunderland. Children used to play around the stern at low tide and look for a dropped pieces of coal which they would hide in their clothing and take back to their grateful parents. The introduction of railways to Norfolk brought about the end of this business.
The Hotel de Paris is the most famous hotel in Cromer, once visited by Oscar Wilde, the place was built by Lord Suffield. Stephen Fry once did a stint there as a waiter too, no doubt chasing the footsteps of his idol. Sadly it's nearly impossible to stay at the Hotel de Paris as they have a handcuff deal with a coach tour company (and so the place is packed with pensioners). I popped into to ask about the stained glass images of Cromer in their restaurant windows, the man on reception told me they knew nothing about them and all historical items had been sent to head office. I can't imagine where or what their head office is?!
The Red Lion just a few yards along the seafront is much better, over 150 years old, offering great sea views and kitted out with free internet and an honesty box minibar, the staff at The Red Lion are great fun and the social atmosphere downstairs in the evenings is a comfort amidst the otherwise silence of Cromer. Visit: http://www.redlion-cromer.co.uk
If you Google "Cromer Gay Scene" then all you get is a few notes on Squirt.Org mentioning this public toilet on the seafront, next to Dunes Arcade (just a little way along from the pier front). I went along to check out what was going down. Nothing.
During my stay the Pavilion theatre on the pier had a Raymond Froggatt show on. £17 seemed a bit steep for someone I've never ever heard of. A Wikipedia paddle taught me that he was a singer in the 60s and has written hits for The Dave Clark 5 and Cliff Richard. A lot of pensioners turned up to watch him.
These two adult men were on the promenade every day playing with a remote controlled car. It was kind of sweet.
Cromer Lighthouse. It used to be operated by an all-female staff. You can hire the place for holidays.
Cromer enjoys a wonderful twilight period, during October between 4.30 and 7. The light is magnificent and the sky is very imposing, especially from the pier where you are effectively out at sea.
It never fails to stun and sadden me just how many boys fought and died in the World Wars. This memorial is for a tiny, tiny village called Runton, and yet look how many young men were killed horribly abroad. Some families lost five men, whilst others lost men in both wars. Terrible.
Surfing and body boarding is a popular pastime in Cromer. It's quite a common sight to see boys sprinting down from the north of the town in their wet suits with boards under arm in order to catch the waves in time. Elderly folk stand and watch from the promenade with faint admiring smiles. It's great to see the town's teenagers making the most of Cromer's mercurial seascape.
This boy was body boarding when his board's lead came loose. He ran up to the promenade and asked if he could borrow a key to prize it back together. I thought he was going to yap at me for taking photos. Always happy to help.
I was a little scared to see a newsagent so solidly affiliated with the Daily Mail, so neat and tidy, and to double up as a tearoom! However, I popped in for a cup of tea and the local Norfolk girls who worked there were lovely and good fun to chat to.
A pair of fisherman's thigh-high leather sea boots. Despite their weight adding to the risk of drowning, these huge leather items were popular in the fishing community for centuries. I rather like them. Also - that stuffed crab is an example of the type you see crawling around on the beach in Cromer. Terrifying. And to think those boys dart about barefoot with their body boards!
A sign left by ITV announcing that they were filming in the area. I straightened my hair especially but didn't see any camera crews. Alas my big Hollywood break will have to wait.
So there we have it. Some photographs from Cromer.