Font-full of fun is on the way!

A PRUDENCE of parsons, a pulpit of priests, a chalice of clerics - whatever your favourite collective noun, there's a font-full of 'em heading North Walsham's way this weekend.

A PRUDENCE of parsons, a pulpit of priests, a chalice of clerics - whatever your favourite collective noun, there's a font-full of 'em heading North Walsham's way this weekend.

All Preachers Great and Small will process up the aisle of St Nicholas' Parish Church on Saturday for an evening of words, music and laughter, celebrating a Godly group of Norfolk diarists and singers past and present.

As ever the party will be led by Cromer-based writer and broadcaster Keith Skipper who, like the resort, ought to be tagged 'Gem of the Norfolk Coast.'

I was looking at extracts from the journals of preacher past James Woodforde, who features in the show, and they make compulsive reading.

Back in June 1796 Parson Woodforde, vicar of Weston Longville, sent for a man who pulled teeth after spending an agonising night with toothache. His description of what happened next made me wince over 200 years later.

The elderly 'dentist' arrived about 7am and drew the tooth: '… but shockingly badly indeed, he broke away a great piece of my gum and broke one of the fangs of the tooth, it gave me exquisite pain all the day after and my face was swelled prodigiously in the evening and much pain.'

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Hope you enjoy his postscript as much as I did: 'Gave the old man that drew it however 2/6d. He is too old I think to draw teeth - can't see very well.'

I see from the programme that Keith will be giving Norfolk dialect Bible readings during the performance. I remember my dad recalling his Christmas holidays when he would return home from boarding school near London to rural Dorset.

Sitting in church he listened, bewildered, to the vicar's West Country burr and was an adult before he understood Matthew 11:15: ''e that 'ath ears to 'ear, let'm 'ear.'

Poor dad would have been even more confused if the vicar had shared the same name as the present incumbent of North Walsham - the Rev (Derek) Earis.

�Tickets for the 7.30pm show cost �8, including refreshments, and are available from Express Printers, Market Place, North Walsham (01692 500121) or on the door. Proceeds will go towards the church's �85,000 organ restoration project which has just got under way. Keith promises: 'We will be pulling out all the stops.'

He will be joined by David Woodward, as Parson Woodforde, Brian Patrick, in the role of Rev Benjamin Armstrong, a Victorian vicar of East Dereham, and musician Ian Prettyman, a Methodist lay preacher in the Lowestoft area.

It will be the last chance in 2009 to see the show, which has raised thousands for churches over the years, but Keith is keen to hear from anyone interested in holding a church fund-raising event next year with All Preachers Great and Small. Write to him at: 25 St Mary's Road, Cromer, NR27 9DJ.

MY eyebrows rose a little after reading an entry on county councillor Paul Morse's new blog.

Mr Morse, a regular train user, had a bit of a rant in his online journal about a nightmare journey back to North Walsham on August 27:

'Dreadful trip home today. The 1745 from Norwich often has passengers standing when it is a two carriage train, today it was just one. We were packed in like sardines with I think people left behind. No explanation, no apology, no refund…'

His posting was read by Ian Dinmore, community railways officer with Norfolk County Council, who replied with an apology, on behalf of the Bittern Line Community Rail Partnership.

Mr Dinmore added: 'I know it is often hard to understand why these things happen - there is usually a good reason and they do not do this out of malice. However, I note that no explanation or apology was given and I will pass your 'observations' on to the senior staff at National Express…'

Perhaps all we frustrated rail users need to launch blogs in order to get action. Certainly my more conventional way of contacting the Bittern Line chiefs - a letter sent a year ago today - didn't do me much good.

I had written asking whether it might be possible to alter the timing of one of the afternoon trains from Norwich to Sheringham so that pupils at Broadland and North Walsham high schools didn't have to wait for at least an hour to catch a train home.

I pointed out that the line was probably losing customers because many parents were not prepared to let children hang about for so long in the cold and dark on winter afternoons.

I have yet to receive a written reply to my letter. However, someone at the meeting where it was discussed did ring to tell me, off-the-record, that the comments made included: 'Why doesn't she send her children to a school nearer her home?' and 'Why don't they catch a bus instead?'

I read this on the partnership's website: 'The Bittern Line continues to be proactive and its members from all parts of the local community help to promote and improve the Norwich to Sheringham Railway.'

Oh, really?