Fish and chips on a Sunday? A relatively new treat for us

Singing protest: panto-goers urged to add their voices to a campaign against an official plan to ama

Singing protest: panto-goers urged to add their voices to a campaign against an official plan to amalgamate Yarmouth and Lowestoft.Picture: MERCURY LIBRARY - Credit: Archant

The significance of a first cannot be over-emphasised: first baby, first tooth, first day at school, first girl or boy friend, first job, first bike, motor-cycle or car... Of course, not all firsts are that significant, being more hum-drum and prosaic.

Gorleston's distinctive library, built in the town centre in the early 1900s with £2000 gift from ph

Gorleston's distinctive library, built in the town centre in the early 1900s with £2000 gift from philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, included the young Peggotty among its borrowers.Picture: PETER ALLARD COLLECTION - Credit: Peter Allard Collection

For example, it was only on a quick reflection across the many past years of my life that I realised recently that I had just eaten a plate of fish and chips for lunch – on a Sunday! So far as I could recall, never before had I partaken of Sunday fish and chips.

The reasons are several. I was raised in an era when Sunday was the day when most people were off work and families sat down to a traditional roast meat and three veg at midday...or after the pubs had shut! If anyone had the sudden urge to break the habit by wanting Sunday fish and chips, it would have been a problem because all their vendors displayed “Closed” signs on Sundays and even Mondays in that era.

The renowned Yarmouth Market Place chip stalls (no fish was ever fried) were all closed or completely removed on Sundays. In the intervening decades, the Sunday joint custom has largely been eroded by out-and-about Sundays for mobile families although traditionalists persisted with their normal routine.

So, the chances are that last month we broke tradition by scoffing fish and chips on a Sunday. Who or what did we blame for this memorable lapse from a life-long habit? The Great Yarmouth Mercury! Yes, our dear old Mercury. It was your fault!

The chips are down...some of the famed Market Place chip stalls were closed temporarily in 1975 beca

The chips are down...some of the famed Market Place chip stalls were closed temporarily in 1975 because a late potato crop and consequent soaring prices.Picture: MERCURY LIBRARY - Credit: Archant

On a warm day more like summer than autumn, we enjoyed a Sunday drive, ending with a detour along a busy Yarmouth Golden Mile. As we passed Harry Ramsden’s Mrs Peggotty – like any good housewife, mulling over what to give us for a meal when we arrived home in Peggotty’s Hut in Gorleston – suddenly remembered that in her purse was a coupon entitling us to a concession meal at the popular fish-and-chip specialist.

She showed me front page taster she had snipped from the Mercury: “Tasty 2 for 1 at Harry’s!” So we found a parking place, strolled to Harry Ramsden’s clutching the offer coupon...and broke our Sunday habit of a lifetime.

Most Read

That was an enjoyable “first” but another, a couple of days later, was far from pleasant. We used the park-and-ride at Postwick to visit Norwich and, back in our car, set off for home for the first time since that mini-spaghetti junction came into operation.

Previously we had negotiated the new complex heading from Thorpe towards the A47 to Yarmouth, successfully finding our way via what seemed a succession of roundabouts with Mrs Peggotty acting as my navigator. That was a doddle compared to the park-and-ride daylight exit nightmare.

Emerging from the park-and-ride area we wanted Yarmouth but spotted not a single sign directing us towards the east-bound A47. One on our left pointed to Norwich and Cromer, the opposite direction. Broadland - presumably the business park - was also announced.

The only other two we saw were for Postwick. No Acle, no Yarmouth. It was no-man’s-land of traffic lights and curving un-signed roads but Mrs Peggotty somehow guided me to the un-signed coast-bound A47. Luckily it was daylight.

I could not have achieved that alone, even in broad daylight, and will try to avoid that route from the park/ride again. The confusingly over-elaborate junction has had many critics, even from professional drivers familiar with the area before the re-routing. They must have a point, but has anybody listened?

Regular correspondent Danny Daniels, who emigrated to Canada many years ago, wrote recently about crossing the long-gone Upper Ferry weekly in his boyhood on his way from his Southtown home to Yarmouth library to change his books. That reminded me of another first I remember vividly from my school days: my first visit to Gorleston library to enrol as a borrower.

I walked from Stradbroke Road Junior School to the Carnegie public library, told the stern and studious man at the desk of my wish to join, and spent what must have been an hour but seemed longer scouring the shelves in the juvenile section seeking my first two books. Despite being spoiled for choice, nothing struck me as a “must borrow” and as closing time came, I picked two at random and went to have them date-stamped.

The one I remember is a book on British birds and their eggs, a subject in which I had not the remotest interest. Back at home during the next week, I tried to learn its contents in the mistaken belief that the forbidding librarian would test me on the knowledge I had gleaned from my intensive perusal. What the punishment or penalty would be I could but surmise, but feared banishment.

But, of course, he just put them on top of the “returns” pile and left me to seek replacements. I went from over-awed to avid user, always picking novels and avoiding ornithology.

I was not in the audience for another “first” a half-century ago when Yarmouth Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society’s annual pantomime included an unexpected politically-motivated item protesting about an official campaign to merge our borough with old rivals Lowestoft into “Yartoft”, a single local government unit.

With the words displayed on a large sheet, the audience needed little encouragement from the cast’s Derek Marshall and Bob Moore to sing “Hands off Great Yarmouth” to the tune of “Land of Hope and Glory”.

“We all want to stay free,” they chorused. “Though some may seek to change us, Right here we proudly state: Keep your hands off Yarmouth, And Yarmouth will still be great.”

Whether or not the rousing protest influenced the outcome is pure speculation, but the proposal never succeeded. However, within eight years urban self-contained Yarmouth and Gorleston lost its unitary county borough status and was lumped together with nearby villages under local government reorganisation, becoming a reluctant part of Norfolk.