The barmaid is lying on the floor

King’s Lynn, in Norfolk, was once called Bishop’s Lynn. Then Henry 8 came along with his forced possession notices and the town thought it wise to change its name. That was in 1537. It didn’t work for long. Good King Hal caught wind of the wealth to be had and the rich pickings that could go to his mates, and the best bits of the town were given away like everywhere else.

Before that happened, back in the 14th century, Bishop’s Lynn was a Hanseatic League port. The Hanseatic League owned and ran the warehouses and docks of the Bryggen in Bergen. It was also very important for trade in and around the Baltic. The Lynn was the first English port to be part of the League.

And there’s two buildings in King’s Lynn which date back to the days of the League. One of them is Hanse House built in 1475 and Marriott’s Warehouse, in use between the 15th and 17th centuries. And, more recently, the place where we had lunch today.

And, I have to say, the grilled sardines at Marriott’s are superb.

When I say ‘we had lunch’, I mean a lot of Aldershot Town Football Club supporters who had travelled to Norfolk to watch the almost mighty shots play the Linnets in their delightfully Swedish style blue and yellow strip.

Nicktor drove, picking me up early, and we arrived outside Marriott’s Warehouse in enough time for him to show me a surprise he’d been saving. He walked me to the end of the road and there, before me, was the quay at the end of what used to be Purfleet, a stretch of navigable water that once went through the town.

And, best surprise of all (he really knows how to please me, does Nicktor) was the statue on the quay. The man who discovered something that was never lost but wasn’t known about by Europeans. British Columbia. The man whose name was used for an island and major city. A man called Captain George Vancouver RN.

George was born in King’s Lynn in 1757 and was a bit of an explorer. He ran into Vancouver Island and decided it would be nice if it had his name. I imagine the natives had an original name for it but, in all these things, the white invaders always get naming rights.

George entered the Royal Navy aged 13 and sailed with Cook on his second and third voyages. He learned a lot and was soon in charge of his own ships. He set off in 1791 and charted a lot of coastline. He named lots of places after people in his crew as well as good friends back home. He was a bit mad for the naming of places.

Mind you, he wasn’t the first person to find it. Numerous native people had been living there for thousands of years before 1791. I can’t find out what they called it, but I feel certain it wasn’t Vancouver Island. Still, he did what he did, and he drew lots of maps of it. And he named the island after himself.

As Nicktor said, he was quite short but, as I said, the ships were pretty small so the smaller the captain the more successful he was likely to be. We agreed but then the wind started blowing very icy and we thought we heard the shrieks of the beer calling us inside. Of course it could have been seagulls but I’m not certain.

After a marvellous lunch and many beers, we headed off for the football ground. It was a long walk, memorable for the statue of King John standing in the centre of town. King’s Lynn, which was Bishop’s Lynn then, was one of the last places he visited just before he died in 1216. Here he is with his very own Aldershot supporter.

I’m not certain what John is going to do with the cosh, but it doesn’t look pleasant. Actually, as much as a lot people don’t like John (the Shakespeare play was hardly complimentary) he did give the Lynn the right to be self governing and hold a weekly market.

As much as he liked the place, I don’t think he supported the local football team. Almost everyone we spoke to today had no idea there even was a football team, let alone support it. In fact, the total attendance at the game today was a bit sad. It felt there were more of us.

Mind you, the game was pretty dull with maybe two moments of excitement (Nicktor reckons just the one), one of them, in the 81st minute, giving us the winning goal. Yes, we won. The first time I’ve seen them win this season. And the third win on the trot. Maybe it’s a change of fortune time.

The team seemed very happy after the full time whistle blew and they all came over for some happy cheering from us. Given the awful, non-stop rain and chill wind, they did rather well to play at all.

And the weather didn’t improve as we headed back into town. We’d said goodbye to everyone else we knew because they were all heading back home. Nicktor and I needed a pub. As we walked, we realised we also needed somewhere warm to sit down.

The first pub we came to was the bright and welcoming White Hart where we sat and drank gluten free beer on tap for a long, warming while.

As we sat, sipping, Mr Pink turned up. There was to be a gig on at 9pm and he was part of the group who was hauling in instruments and other assorted bits of kit. At one point, Nicktor did a straw poll among the people in the bar. He wanted to know who liked truffles. For a while it looked like it was only me but then, the reliable Mr Pink chimed in on my side.

The thought of truffle must have affected the barmaid more than we thought because shortly afterwards she was lying on the floor near the pool table for reasons never made clear. Things were getting a bit weird as the pub filled up with more and more people to do with the gig and no audience. We decided it was time to go and find dinner.

A few doors down and beyond the minster which I correctly spotted earlier in the day, we found The Wenn’s Chop and Ale House. When we asked the guy behind the bar why it was called the Wenn’s, he didn’t know because he’d only been working there four nights. Another guy behind the bar, helpfully told us the name came from the fact that it had once been a house which belonged to Mr and Mrs Wenn.

We suffered through hot pork scratchings with apple dipping sauce, followed by a tiny turkey pie in a delicious gravy. All round delicious, washed down with some excellent beer.

As we left, we decided a nightcap was in order before we returned to the hotel. After fruitlessly searching for another pub, we wound up back at the Marriott’s Warehouse. We sat down and ordered whisky and wound up chatting to the staff as they slowly closed up the place.

Eventually, Nicktor announced it was time to go. He tried ringing for a cab. It turned out the next cab wouldn’t be available until 1am. It was 11:30pm. We decided we’d have to walk the mile and a half back, through the wind, rain and darkness.

I went to the loo and, while I was gone, the manager of the place approached Nicktor and offered to drive us back. I returned to this very generous offer.

What a lovely, lovely man. He drove us back, telling us about his life in King’s Lynn (he was originally from Tripoli but loves the Lynn now), his family and how much he loves running the Warehouse. The day could have ended in a decidedly ghastly way but this very generous man rounded off our day perfectly.

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