Norwich – City of Literature

This is a creative writing exercise called ‘Mythologising Home’.  However this one is from my writing buddy, Hilary Slade.  Not only did Hilary write a great piece, it taught me more about the history of my nearest city in 500 words than I’d learnt in the last ten years.  Norwich is a UNESCO City of Literature.

Norwich – officially a fine city according to the signs. Not a great description. An old city. One that’s long past its medieval prime.

A familiar old face, its distinguishing features formed in another long left-behind era – the castle, the cathedral, the churches. Its new aspects trying to settle in and leave their mark. Competition between old and new finds them reaching for a harmony but managing only a strange dissonance. A face over-worked by too many hands and too much time.

The medieval church sits near the Georgian house near the inter-war city hall opposite the jarringly modern library. It’s a jumbled old city.

Stuck out on a limb on a road to nowhere except itself. It’s a loner, despite the spidery network of road and rails designed to be the bloodlines that join this face with a greater whole. Once you arrive you never really leave so they say, or if you do it’s only to find yourself pulled back just when you least expect it.

Surrounded by stone, built on fibre, flint and faith it’s seen it all. Steely words and actions inspired a population whose dissent would fire time after time. No wonder rebellion has a long history of sparking here.

Industry brought prosperity and the flush of success. Trading halls the focus as the ships that sailed from Flanders brought wealth and the Strangers who found refuge here. Weaving themselves into society, with their pet canaries, they brought with them more fuel for the fire with their radical politics and religious reforms.

Settling into its prime, trade flourished, flowing up and down the river. The city thrived and urbanised inside its stony walls. Time for debate, time to learn, time to enjoy. Spreading the wealth to make sure nobody got left behind in poverty.

And so it stayed until the rise of the factories in another place out of sight and out of reach. The grey smoke rose in the west but its deathly reach extended east to choke the trade it was built upon.

This face looked in the mirror only to find it had been retired. No longer the place of riots and reform. It finally submitted to an old age of service, too old to make things anew.

The glass and steel altars quickly thrown up without love across the last couple of decades. A last ditch effort of reinvention to reclaim that long lost youth. Old and new stand side by side. So what’s left now?

It’s long been said the pen is mightier than the sword. No sparks set to fly here now. Just words- so many words that tell tales not of this old place but of whatever can be imagined. The possibilities are endless. So come and pay your respects to this old city.

Hilary L Slade is currently writing her first novel, and is part of the Unthank School of Writing.  You can follow her on Twitter @HilaryLSlade

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