After an unsustainable gap, during which I have damaged my shoulder mysteriously (I suspect the influence of great crested newts), we bring you the eighth episode in the unmissable Houseago Diaries. Recently unearthed, these throw new light, not only on the structure and origins of the universe, but on the heroic fight by one Norfolk man against the erosion of life as we know it. Some news of this leaked into the Eastern Daily Press as the end of the last century neared, but we now can reveal in new depth exactly what was going on from a bottom-up perspective. This is Henry (Fred) “Shrimp” Houseago’s own story:
September 20, 1997
Long, hot summer. Well, long anyway. Have worked hard on book, but Dorothea keeps interrupting with demands to go to seaside, or at least Erpingham. Scheinlich very quiet. Suspect he’s incapable of writing book. Has no sticking power. I have written ten pages.
Read that Michael Palin, alleged Python humorist, had locomotive named after him. Wrote to British Rail suggesting they should name locomotive after me, as Norfolk legend and anti-newt campaigner. Said was least they could do. Letter redirected to Anglia Railways. Apparently British Rail disbanded. Bad news. Liked British Rail: gave you warm feeling unless waiting for train on windswept platform. Said Henry (Fred) “Shrimp” Houseago obviously great name for train. Rolled off tongue. Would sort out Suffolk. Strange reaction: asked me if I was going off rails. Very funny. Said was not expecting Spanish Inquisition. Palin not only humorist round here.
October 4, 1997
Still no sign of newts. Have I won? Rejection of train idea has spurred me to greater efforts. Have written 11 pages. Decided to get in public eye again and claimed upstart Andy Green (who he?) had stolen my land speed world record, set just after second world war in combine harvester with Spitfire engine. Said found Spitfire engine in field. Nice touch: Spitfire very popular; so will get people on my side. Maybe should not have said run took place on disused rail line near Dereham. Bit hard to believe. Dorothea, 104, did not help by saying I completed one run but did not come back again. Still, she did say: “Shrimp may have gone faster.” But not as positive as would have liked.
Have spread rumour that will be making demonstration run on combine harvester next week at Tunstead Trosh. Won’t, of course. Combine harvester dismantled years ago.
October 20, 1997
Dorothea suggests could locate great crested newts on Internewt. Think she is getting delusional, due to absence of Len “Kissme” Hardy, who she claims to hardly know. Almost pun : most unlike her. She must be desperate. Don’t know what wholefood chef is anyway. What is wholefood? All of it? Tunstead Trosh cancelled. Rain.
November 5, 1997
Forget wholefood, I say. Have decided not to be jealous of Dorothea and wholefood chef. Probably nothing in it. Instead have devised brilliant anti-newt PR coup. Suggested they are behind bid to erect giant mobile phone mast at Burnham Market, in Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. No-one likes mobile phone masts – even people with mobile phones – especially in beautiful areas. To blame newts for ugliness will arouse natives against them.
November 8, 1997
In further brilliant move, suggested newts jealous of otters, which Suffolk Wildlife Trust says now live in every river valley in county. Not sure how many river valleys in Suffolk. Pity it was Suffolk, but probably in Norfolk too. Newts are “endangered” species (so they say); so obviously they would hate more successful species. Otters also bigger. Wonder if otters eat newts. Possibly wholefood. Must check.
November 17, 1997
As final touch, released quote to press, which appeared today: “This is just like them (newts). They don’t care about the countryside at all. They just want to be noticed. I should keep an eye on the Yarmouth area.” Naturally don’t want Yarmouth people to be left out. They can turn a bit nasty. Not that don’t like Yarmouth. Oh, no. Very good chips.
Wonder if chips are wholefood.
December 1, 1997
Newts have hit back with attempt to take moral high ground in battle for city street. Probably aiming to become People’s Newts, but no chance. Claimed to have kidnapped Teletubbies, which is sure sign of desperation. Newts “angry” at decision to close St Faith’s Lane. Ha! Was so annoyed that said some pretty rash things, like no one knew where St Faith’s Lane was and also was rat run. Obviously rats denied this. Dorothea said I had drunk a bit too much and took phone away from me, but it was too late. All went in paper. I worry about journalists, sometimes. They seem to believe anything you tell them.
See Scheinlich is claiming severe pressure on space-time continuum in Hingham Autonomous Republic following local football team’s 36-0 victory over Swanton Morley United. Not fair, really. Hingham almost national team, and Swanton Morley only village. Possibly Hingham team have proper coaches (Italian) and eat specialist diet. Maybe wholefood.
December 15, 1997
Disaster. Festive season ruined. Idiots at Wildlife Trust and English Nature have put great crested newts near top of “at risk” species. Nearly as gullible as journalists. Only way newts at risk is if I get near them. Told EDP it was preposterous: “We need protecting from them. They’ll be claiming diplomatic immunity next.”
Should not have said that. Obvious reasons. Appalled that in Suffolk (of course) scores of newts (at risk! ha!) saved from certain “death by digger” on housing development at Framlingham. Special ditches, fences and drain covers provided for them at great expense. Outrageous. So furious, made far-fetched accusation about newts and black market beef. Said: “No smoke without fire.” True, but irrelevant. No-one likely to notice, though. Could beef be wholefood?
December 31, 1997
Christmas pretty disastrous. Dorothea got annoyed when I asked if turkey was wholefood, then asked same question about Christmas pudding, mincepies and brandy snaps. No need for her to throw brandy snaps, though. No sign of Len “Kissme” Hardy. Prof Scheinlich popped in for bottle or two of vodka and said Hingham losing all connection with reality. Asked what reality was, but Scheinlich too tired to reply.
Prediction in EDP that newts will be taken off “at risk” register next June. Excellent news. However, same article forecasts aliens landing at Yarmouth in October, and no-one noticing. Possible, I suppose.
More from the Houseago Diaries next week