Higgledy-Piggledy Streets In Norwich

higgledy-piggledy streets in Norwich

According to the Oxford dictionary, the origin of higgledy-piggledy dates from the late 16th century and is a rhyming jingle, probably with reference to the difficulties of herding pigs.

The definition in the Oxford Dictionary says that the word describes something ‘in confusion or disorder’, which means I have always been wrong in what I thought it meant. For me, it just meant jumbled up – not confused – just not in order. There may be no difference, but confusion seems to indicate that the desire was for order but it was not fulfilled. Whereas for me, higgledy-piggledy just means out of order – with no burning desire for order that has been thwarted or unfulfilled.

The Etymology site at Etymonline mentions other similar double words. I never thought about it but I know all these and I guess you do too: hanky-panky, hocus-pocus, hurly-burly, hodge-podge, harum-scarum, helter-skelter, flim-flam, fiddle-faddle, hotch-potch, hum-drum, tittle-tattle, shilly-shally, topsy-turvy.

Man In Green On The High Line In New York

man in a green suit sitting on a wall on the high line in New York

He’s out of the ordinary. At a glance he is colourful and nattily dressed.

When I zoom in, I see that the leather of his two-tone shoes is cracked. He is wearing two watches on one wrist and one on the other. He has dollar bills clipped to the sides of his plastic bags.

He has not one, but several plastic bags – the handles showing one in side another.

He seems to me – the foreigner in New York – to represent what happens when you denigrate a whole section of society for generations. Some of them try; their wounded, injured self respect and pride makes them try. But in the trying they are nonetheless wounded, and the trying is a bit odd.

Of course, I could be reading more into this than it warrants. Maybe. What do you see?

My oldest son told me something last night. The conversation turned to Charlottesville and he mentioned something he had read by a Black academic on the history of Black people – how the narrative started with slavery. Interesting thought.

It reminded me of something I read – that in the early days of the British adventure in India, everyone in Britain wanted Indian furnishings and art in the homes.

When Britain took over India, a subjugated people didn’t have the same appeal and people in Britain didn’t want Indian furnishings any more.

The Roof Of The Nave Of Norwich Cathedral

Roof of Norwich Cathedral

Begun in 1096 and completed in 1145, it is built in flint and mortar and faced off with limestone brought from Caen in the Normandy region in France.

There was originally a flat wooden ceiling in the Nave, taken out in the 1400s, but I couldn’t find out whether the vaulted roof was there all along or whether it was built then and replaced something else.

To my untrained eye it looks like a simple form of fan vaulting, but maybe it’s not. The structure of roofs is complicated, as you can read from this extract about the structure of fan vaulting:

The fan vault would seem to have owed its origin to the employment of centerings of one curve for all the ribs, instead of having separate centerings for the transverse, diagonal wall and intermediate ribs; it was facilitated also by the introduction of the four-centred arch, because the lower portion of the arch formed part of the fan, or conoid, and the upper part could be extended at pleasure with a greater radius across the vault.

Norwich cathedral is quite a narrow building when you are there admiring the architecture, and it is positively small compared to some cathedrals – a pipsqueak compared to The Chapel At King’s College Cambridge

Why Visit

One reason why I visit these buildings is that you can actually go inside them, unlike lots of modern cathedrals to finance.

Another is the way sound travels in the spaces inside. There is a lovely, airy and yet muffled quality to the sound. A door closing, a voice, the sound of feet on the stones.

I remember a builder I know lamenting the Building Regulations that meant that modern buildings were ‘as tight as a drum’. Bang the walls of your house and see how they resound?

And then of course the main reason I visit is that the buildings are often beautiful.

side nave at Norwich cathedral


The cathedral has got lovely vernacular buildings all around outside and a grassed area. And the whole setting is a notch down from the bustle beyond the walls.

Actually it is not that much of a bustle. Norwich feels a bit depressed, like many English towns bypassed by the arterial throb of modernity.