Back in March of 2015 I left on a 2 month photo excursion to the U.K. I called ‘Wherever I Wander‘ that began with a week in Athens and Santorini to warm myself up after the coldest February in Ottawa in 115 years! It was a lovely way to begin an adventure, but not without a down side. I’ll preface this story with a quote I’ve become quite fond of, “Everything will be all right in the end. If it’s not all right, it is not yet the end” Sonny Kappor, Hotel Manager, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. So, read to the end!
This story is about remembering an old high school pal, and an unplanned visit to the town of King’s Lynn in Norfolk, which began when I lost my camera after flying back to London from Athens. I won’t get in to how I lost my camera, but once I discovered the loss and exhausted all possibilities to recover it, I needed to find a replacement camera. After scouring the internet I found a used camera store in Norwich that had the exact same Pentax camera I lost, plus similar models for me to consider. That’s when I drove the 3 hours from London to Norwich, a part of England that wasn’t on my itinerary. It wasn’t until I was standing in the camera store looking at what this replacement was going to cost me (between £200 and £800 depending on whether I wanted to replace or upgrade) when I got the call… Heathrow had found my camera! This was the first time I’ve walked into a camera store with the intent of buying something and walked out happy that I didn’t! Well … I did think about that new K-3 for a while after I left … IT WAS 24 megapixels!!
Now I had to make the 3 hour trip back to Heathrow to get my camera, but first I had to take care of a little bit of serendipity … yes one of those moments again … I’ve never been to Norwich or this part of England, but on the way I passed an exit for the town of King’s Lynn. A little while later I saw this huge spectacular column in the distance in what seemed to be the middle of nowhere, I decided I had to stop to find out what it actually was and at the same time take a look at the map to see how far King’s Lynn was. The column was the Elveden War Memorial, which was erected in memory of those who served and died during World War One, the Great War, from the three villages of Elveden, Eriswell, and Icklingham in this spot, where the boundaries of the three parishes meet. I think walking around this memorial that most people just drive by not knowing what it is solidified in my mind that I couldn’t just drive by King’s Lynn, I had to stop! You see, one of my best friends in High School in West Vancouver was born in King’s Lynn, Simon Wilde was a very good friend and crazy fellow Brit, someone like me who was on the outside, someone who shared my passion for music and theatre. After High School Simon joined a band called Rabid as their bass player, and then briefly joined the Vancouver punk band, D.O.A. Sadly, on May 4, 1991, Simon died as a result of a brain tumor. And here I found myself near his hometown, so I knew I had to stop in King’s Lynn and pay my respects to my old friend! You are sorely missed Simon, yet I have memories I often think of … especially that test drive of the Orange Pantera! Dude!!! Little did I know how strange and serendipitous this brief visit would be.
When I arrived in King’s Lynn, I had no idea where to go – this wasn’t planned. I parked in the first parking lot I found and walked, no map, just the sense that I wanted to be here and recall the good old days with my old High School pal. Now, as I mentioned Simon and I shared a love for music and would often be found at concerts or record stores, or sitting around in the basement of my parents house listening to our latest vinyl purchases. When we graduated Simon wrote my bio for our High School Annual, “Jules spent most of his Friday nights trying to pick up girls. The rest of the time was spent going to concerts, buying records, and searching for a job. Jules future interests are to continue acting and to enter a career in either drafting or the performing arts.” Drafting? I did consider Architecture, but Drafting? That was a joke, right? Like the trying to pick up girls line! Anyway, it was rather funny that the first thing I saw when I walked out of the alleyway from the parking lot was a record store. Looking in the window reminded me of our friendship, listening to the likes of my favourites David Bowie and T-Rex, and Simon’s favourites Kiss and Donna Summer! Okay, I’m kidding about Donna Summer… just getting back for that ‘trying to pick up girls‘ line! It was too bad the store was closed though, it would have been nice to go inside and pick up … a memento … the T-Rex Slider picture disc would have been nice! 🙂
I continued walking through this town that dates back as far as the 12th Century, seeing familiar historical places and others of both historic and photographic interest. Walking down the cobblestone King’s Staithe Lane was an experience in time travel when one realizes this street remains unchanged from the 1960s, when Simon would have lived here, or even the 12th Century when the town was in its infancy. I was wishing I had more time, I had yet to find a pub where I could raise a glass to my friend, and this place seemed to be full of so many stories it wanted to tell!
The lane I was walking down passed an alley with an interesting story all it’s own. It is said that the Devil himself appeared in Devil’s Alley, having arrived by ship and disembarked with the intent of stealing some souls! He was spotted however, by a priest who drove him away with prayers and holy water. The devil was angry, and stamped his foot so hard that he left a single hoofprint that is said to be visible down this very old alleyway! Back in our High School days, Simon and I were in a few plays and musicals together, in one I played the Devil. I looked down the alley for the hoof print but saw nothing! Wait … was that water I just felt on my face … I stamped my foot and continued on my way! I walked past Greyfriars Tower (photo in the slide show below), considered one of the finest of only three surviving Franciscan monastery towers in England, and eventually found myself coming in to the center of town.
This is where things started getting even more coincidental. I have a great love for architecture especially old buildings, and I saw what looked like a very old building that had been converted in to a movie theatre, I had to take a closer look. It turned out that this building had always been a movie theatre, built in 1927 ‘The Picture House’, as it was formally known, opened May 23rd, 1928 with the silent film version of ‘Ben Hur’. The owners had bought some of the contents of the Empire Theatre in London, which was being demolished, and once restored it formed a part of the interior of the ‘Majestic’ … I had to laugh! Simon and I would often have discussions on the subject of UFO’s, something we were both interested in, we had even seen our own ‘UFO’s, but that’s another story! One topic that Simon would talk about was that of ‘Majestic’, the code name of an alleged secret committee of scientists, military leaders, and government officials, formed in 1947 by U.S. President Truman to help recover and investigate alien spacecraft. And here’s me laughing on the steps of a movie theatre in King’s Lynn knowing that Simon probably first saw the word Majestic here, he was probably to young to have an interest in UFO’s at that point though… or not.
It’s funny the things that happen sometimes, the connections from one event to another, from one person or place to another. As I was walking through King’s Lynn, still laughing about “Majestic’ I came upon a building with VANCOUVER across the top, I just stopped in my tracks… why would it say Vancouver on that building? You see, my friend Simon and I, even though we were both British, met in Vancouver, so what was the connection between King’s Lynn and Vancouver. It turned out that this was a shopping area called the Vancouver Quarter, I asked a couple of people if they knew why it was called that but they had no idea. Another woman overheard me and we ended up having a lovely chat. I told her about my friend and why I was wondering about the connection, she said she believed it was named for Captain George Vancouver who was born in Kings Lynn, and she thought it was pretty cool my having this unplanned opportunity to pay my respects to an old friend from Vancouver by visiting the hometown of both my friend and Captain Vancouver. And she was right, it was a cool experience and that’s why I wanted to share it here. I never got in to a pub for that drink, but raising a cup of coffee with someone who saw how cool this was, was more fitting. Oh, and after some on-line research I confirmed that George Vancouver was indeed born in King’s Lynn. I wonder if this had any bearing on Simon’s parents decision to emigrate to Canada and live in Vancouver specifically.
I know, a long story, I have a reputation for being long winded that I need to keep up, but I hope you enjoyed it, and that maybe it made you think of an old friend who passed away, or someone you just haven’t seen in a long time that you miss. I know I miss Simon, as I miss a lot of old friends from my days in Vancouver… time for a trip West?
If you liked the photos here of King’s Lynn click on the slide show below to see all the photos I took with my trusty point and shoot! I lost my camera as you may recall, and to end this story, I did make it to Heathrow in time to pick up my camera at Lost Property, they have a £20 fee for recovered property, which was way better than the hundreds of pounds I was considering earlier this same day!
I lost a bit of travel time due to losing my camera and having to drive from Heathrow to Norwich and back again, but that’s okay, the memories I found in King’s Lynn made it all worthwhile!
Dedicated to my friend, Simon Wilde 1959-1991.
Click here to view the entire gallery or enjoy a fullscreen slideshow experience.
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