'Volunteers are my heroes' - Q&A with Keith Skipper

Keith Skipper reading from his new book, the Norfolk Almanac. Picture: Stuart Anderson

Writer, broadcaster and 'compulsive mardler' Keith Skipper. - Credit: Archant

We're asking people in north Norfolk what they love most about living and working here. This week we're featuring Keith Skipper, 77, of Cromer. 

How would you best describe your job or role in the community? 

I am writer, broadcaster, Norfolk fundamentalist and compulsive mardler.  

On my regular jaunts in and around town, I probably amuse and annoy in equal measure on sharing  news, views and yarns. Gossip for short – but splendid source of material.

How long have you lived in Cromer?

We moved the Skipper family seat to Cromer in 1988, raised two good lads and my wife Diane and I still live in the same house. No, we don’t have a second home in some more fashionable nearby fleshpot (That ought to be crabpot).

What would you do if you were mayor for a day?

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If I were mayor of Cromer for a day, I’d probably realise that was quite long enough!

I raise my hat to those who take on the job with all its graft, groans and blatant obstacles further up the local government ladder.

Rural Life - Cromer - Church Street and Garden Street.Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

At the junction of Church Street and Garden Street in Cromer. - Credit: Archant

Reckon I would spend my day in office urging residents and visitors to take more care of a precious place.  

Town centre traffic congestion and pollution hits alarming levels in high summer while too many streets are turned into ugly parking lots barmy parking is an all-year menace.

What is your favourite landmark in north Norfolk?

I have several secret “hideaways” along the coast and inland It could be counter-productive to reveal them. Perhaps Cromer Pier on a freezing day in early January with only crashing waves below for company can stir the soul more than most places at any time of year.

Waves smash against Cromer Pier and the sea defences at high tide.Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Waves crashing against Cromer pier and esplanade in winter. - Credit: Archant Norfolk

What is your favourite pub?

Before the pandemic, we made occasional pub safaris along the coast, with Happisburgh Lighthouse a favourite for sociable digestion.

Happisburgh Lighthouse (photo: Mark Bullimore)

Happisburgh Lighthouse (photo: Mark Bullimore) - Credit: Archant

Sadly, as 'vulnerable' citizens for nearly two years we have stuck mainly to indoor entertaining, dining and sipping. I make a mean pot of tea.

Which shops do you rely on?

Our big shopping needs have been delightfully delivered in recent times by Lockdown Liz and young helpers, a wonderful lifeline for weekly provisions.  

We make little sorties into town to continue supporting as many high street businesses as possible. I may sometimes do more chuntering than till-boosting.

What is a perfect day in north Norfolk for you? 

I don’t aim for perfect days because they remain extremely rare, especially in rum ole times like these.

I’ll be honest, I do breathe a big sigh of relief when we have Cromer back to ourselves and don’t have to wait ten minutes to cross the road.

Bumping into people you know is such a treat in September, especially on the open-air market on Fridays next door to the tourist information centre.

Traders selling their wares at Cromer's Friday market, re

Traders selling their wares at Cromer's Friday market, which takes place at Meadow car park. - Credit: STUART ANDERSON

Which places in north Norfolk would you recommend to visitors?

Asking me to recommend North Norfolk locations for visitors is to risk a blunt answer of “Sheringham, Wells, Overstrand, Mundesley, the Runtons, Beeston Regis and Blakeney on a good day”.  

But that would be cynical opportunism. I simply suggest a more cautious and caring approach towards our area as a whole.

Who is your north Norfolk hero? 

My local heroes are those who volunteer and organise so willingly and cheerfully to serve their communities, most notably during times of crisis. Cromer Care continues to shine meaningful lights in so many difficult corners.

What do you most love about north Norfolk?

North Norfolk may have to pay too high a price at times for being so popular.

But there’s a reassuringly cussed streak of old-fashioned resistance running through the area. It is strong enough even to cheer up grumpy old pensioners like me!