As part of the Walking Norwich series, novelist Nuril Basri has written about the streets of Norwich.
It was nine o’clock in the morning when I left the cottage in Dragon Hall to walk along King Street. The weather was nice, the sun somewhere behind the overcast sky, and I was pretty oblivious. I passed an alley called Swan Yard and thought that it was a very lovely alley, I like swans and how clean they are.
But what stole my attention was the shop next to it, called Courage|Noble. Standing outside looking in, I guessed it was a barbershop. So strange, I thought, at this time in the morning there were six people inside, three of them having their hair being cared for or cut. All of them were men. The three seated customers were very easy on the eye and the barbers had the same physical quality. I stood there for a while just admiring them, their pretty hair and their smiles, must be nice being them. It was like watching television with the big glass in front of the shop and all. I don’t know if one of them realised I was there, but even so, I would just have told them that I’m a tourist. And tourists gawk and stare fascinated at things. Probably they would be irritated but I could escape.
Anyway, I continued my journey to the city centre, to BBC Radio Norfolk to do a radio interview, and after it was finished I was thinking about finding a street to write about. What street is this? It should be special, I thought. So I walked and walked, until I came across York Alley, only to find that at the end of the alley there was just a tanning salon. My bad, I said, but worth a try. No orange-coloured human was coming out of it, so there was no story there.
As I left the alley, from the café next to it selling Coca-Cola, out came a gentleman. I guessed he had just had his fish and chips in there. How nice, someone just had their lunch and all. He must be very full. I smiled at him. This gentleman was kind of special, he had white hair on his head and all over his face. With one of those moustaches that look like your pinky finger when you’re having high tea, so swirly. In his right hand was a pointy black umbrella and he was wearing a suit and tie. It was nice looking at him. I thought he knew I was looking at him. But he was very confident and a bit old too. I wouldn’t mind growing old like him.
And then it rained. I opened my umbrella and walked to Orford Place. There in front of a shop sat a guy with a dog next to him and he was reading a book.
The rain stopped, so I walked to another street. Gentleman’s Walk Norwich. I liked how it sounded and I felt like it fitted me, maybe. So I just stood there under the street sign hoping that it would float my aura out to the passersby. I am a gentleman when I’m on this street.
And then came this old granny out of nowhere, she was dragging a funny-looking bag with wheels. I supposed that it was like that so she wouldn’t be tired carrying her stuff. She had white hair and she was wearing sneakers. She was old but she walked fast. I wanted to follow her but it started raining again so I opened my umbrella. I wanted to give her my umbrella but she seemed completely fine by herself.
I need to find a street to write about, I said to myself. And I am not a street connoisseur but I bet all these streets have witnessed all these people and without these people the streets must be really sad and lonely.
After that all I could think about was those men in the barbershop so early in the morning. Why would they be in the barbershop at 9am and looking so happy?
Nuril Basri was born in a village in West Java, Indonesia, and raised in a staunchly Islamic community. Nuril has worked in a variety of positions—cashier, tutor, accounts manager, waiter, etc.—the combined experience of which has served to enrich his characters and settings. Nuril is the author of six novels.
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