250 years.

Updated: Oct 19, 2020

I wrote this recently for a local writing competition and it's probably one of the pieces I am proudest of! I hope you all enjoy...

David. That’s what his name is. Was. I never met him, he died long before I was born. David Phillip Cooper, my Dad’s Dad. My Grandad.

When I moved to Norwich four years ago, I vaguely knew my family’s connection to the city, but I didn’t pay it much thought. Then, one day, I picked up the local newspaper lying next to me on the bus- ‘Jarrold 250 years’ the headline announced. Tucked in a tiny little corner, holding two aluminium plates was Dad or at least someone who looked extremely like him. I quickly messaged Dad the image- What are you doing here? Who is this?! Two minutes later- That’s your Grandad- David.

So, this is how I find myself walking a path I’ve trodden numerous times before in a bid to understand where I come from.

I’m on the route I take at least once a week- round the back of the cathedral, past the cow tower, along the river. To my right is Saint James Mill, where Grandad would’ve worked from it’s reopening in 1933 till when he had to leave in 1940. I stare up at its moss strewn windows and imagine history shining down on me. I hear the clack of the rubber runners printing page after page of words, yet unknown to the masses about to consume them. I pause. I breathe. I feel… full.

For a long time, I felt unhinged, alone, like I didn’t belong. Coming here, feeling connected to my past- changed all that.

My walk continues, across the road, curves behind the spire and into the lanes that follow.

I fancy a coffee.

‘Flat white please’ I call to the man behind the counter.

I pay then sit down, sinking into the plush armchair beneath me. Shutting my eyes, I think of all I’ve learnt since moving here- connection, family, words, how to express myself, happiness. My mind catches on a single syllable- Words. I need a new book!

I slurp the final dregs of bitterness and stroll through to the next room, making a beeline for the beautiful books section. Hovering over the new and the old, my hands settle on a version of The Great Gatsby, a favourite of mine since my late teens. Walking out of the store after paying I think of Grandad, printing those words a mere eight years after their release- ‘So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.’

As I leave the doors and walk into the winter sun, I pull my coat tighter and know I too will beat on.