What are newts not hibernating? Houseago Diaries ask key questions

This is the fourth episode of the Houseago Diaries, the recently unearthed unique historical record of one man’s struggle against bureaucracy and newts. It forms a background for, not to mention insights into, the articles originally published in the Eastern Daily Press, Norwich, around the turn of the century. Earlier episodes are archived only on this site.


December 25, 1996

Could not do idiotic quiz in local paper. Still, Dorothea seemed to like her present: six bottles of Norfolk punch. She has put them away somewhere. No plans to do anything much. Newts bound to be quiet over holiday period. Everyone is.

December 31, 1996

Happy New Year – not. Bastard newts have taken advantage of our religious observance and general lack of mobility to announce plans to drive supernewtway through hamlet occupied by rare Norfolk people. Apparently idea is “to make life easier for everyone”. Ha! Why do we want easier life? Anyway, have never heard of newt jams. Suspect they do not exist. Supernewtways quite different from bypasses and dual carriageways, which are good things, avoiding congestion and pollution. No-one wants newts to get anywhere quickly. Bad enough at present speeds.

Not sure where threatened hamlet is: newts rather vague. Since was unable to comment on newt evil, eccentric Ernest Woodfolk, of Association to Preserve Everything that Moves, said he would launch far-reaching campaign of protest. Woodfolk incapable of launching toy yacht. Must try and get out of this chair. Where Dorothea?

 January 1, 1997

Turns out Dorothea making idiotic new year resolutions, with help of Norfolk Punch. Resolved not to lie about her age. Absurd. Has lied about age so long, she doesn’t know how old she is. She also resolved not to take back seat in future. Haven’t noticed this in past. Myself resolved to wipe great crested newts off face of earth, and Wymondham. Also coypu, if not already extinct. Quietly confident.

January 6, 1997

Might have known newts would get in on act. Have resolved not to harass rare colony of Norfolk people – ie us. Say they want to be good neighbours. Do not believe it. Dorothea, in bid not to take back seat, released ridiculous or possibly satirical statement “welcoming newt initiative”. Why are newts not hibernating? Don’t newts hibernate? We should be told. Are cold-blooded, aren’t they?

January 13, 1997

Bizarre item in paper about Newt Gingrich, who seems to be foreigner. Who would call a child Newt? Might as well call it Brooklyn, or Zowie. Suspect newts are trying to cloud issue. Obvious red herring. Have decided to ignore it.

January 20, 1997

Newts clearly going mad. Have announced they will travel round world by balloon. Obvious publicity stunt, especially as they say it isn’t. They won’t go. Newts hopeless balloonists. On other hand, could contact poisonous foreign newts and import them. Need to keep eye on progress, if any. Where Dorothea? Have decided to subscribe to Rare View Mirror, journal devoted to recording strange sights. Newts bound to be in there eventually.

January 24, 1997

Suddenly realised newt ballooning was scheme to drop things on our heads in overflying blitzkrieg. Will they stop at nothing? Had to act fast. Put round rumour of UFO and wild cat alert in Fakenham area, and newts forced to land by public opinion, or Tornado, or both. Stupid journo asked me what newts could possibly drop on Norfolk people’s heads. Said: “Toads, probably.” Seemed to believe me. Added that large number of Norfolk people were allergic to toads. He took it down in shorthand. Refusal of newts to hibernate becoming annoying.

January 27, 1997

Journalists will believe anything. Toad quote appeared in paper.