Houseago Diaries: newt inspectors behaving oddly

This is the fifth episode of our much sought-after serialisation of the Houseago Diaries, recently unearthed in parts of Norwich. It reveals unexpected background events to the heroic  fight by Henry (Fred) “Shrimp” Houseago against the great crested newts who attempted to take over Norfolk in the years leading up to the turn of the century. And after.

“A vital historical document” – Prof V A R Scheinlich

Earlier episodes also available on this site.



February 2, 1997

In brilliant PR move, have announced huge protest over newt plans to run bypass across allotments. Said seven pensioners had climbed trees, and team barricaded itself in tunnel under pond. Team led by Dorothea, who should get out more. Journo asked how this would help. Replied wittily that it was better than watching light entertainment on TV. No-one could argue with that. Everyone behind us now.

February 3, 1997

Counter-attack by newts, who said they would wait until we got fed up, and then carry on with road. They underestimate badly staying power of Norfolk pensioners. Will fight on, and on, and on.

February 6, 1997

Have given up. Irritatingly, newt estimate of perseverance time-scale spot on. Hard to stay in trees or under pond when nothing happening. No sign of road being built.

February 10, 1997

Disturbing news: poohsticks to go metric. Almost as bad as newts. Disintegration of life as we know it. European Commission to blame, as usual. Have nothing better to do. Should find them work elsewhere. Fighting newts, perhaps. Or coypu.

Meanwhile Dorothea drank a little too much punch – she has acquired real taste for it since Christmas – and said too much about newt plans to go on the Internewt. Seemed to think it was some kind of missile. She should really ask me first, since am always abreast of technological breakthroughs. Have Sky. Pointed out e-mails would not be flying all over place, at least not in sense that you could see them or shoot them down. Well, sometimes you could shoot them down, but only if arguments were very weak. Dorothea dug deeper pit for herself when she found newts were using mice (mouses?) to work their computers. Demanded to know whose side mice were on. Embarrassing.

February 23, 1997

Strange day. Was questioned at length by people claiming to be government inspectors from Ofnewt. Would not have believed word of it, but know government inspectors behave oddly. Ofsted, for instance, do nothing but produce reams and reams of paper, far as I can see. Apparently Ofnewt suspicious because newts have disappeared. Would be good news, but don’t trust newts. Probably hiding. Ofnewt seem trifle naive. Think Dorothea and I may have kidnapped newts. Good idea in theory, but where would we put them? In huge newt barn? Newts can escape from anywhere. Would not know how to catch them in first place.

Told Ofnewt was mystified – not just by newts but by life in general. Ofnewt not amused. Toad representative suggested newts were hibernating, but no-one believes this.

February 24, 1997

Could not believe Ofnewt quote in paper. “We suspect a hidden agenda. We have to. There wouldn’t be enough paperwork otherwise.” No doubt true, but would never say it. Whitehall bound to recall Ofnewt. Ofheads. Ofcourse.

March 3, 1997

Report of Ofnewt published. Government inspectors have decided no truth in claim that newts annihilated by colony of Norfolk people. Amazing. Government inspectors usually take two years to announce sky is blue, based on extensive research. Of course newts not annihilated. If you could annihilate newts, would have done it. Turns out Ofnewt is also regulator for public houses and small owls, which is not so surprising. Juxtaposition not strong point of governments, or inspectors.

Report said to run to 2488 pages, most of which are probably the same. Since no-one reads government reports, we shall never know. Less surprisingly, Ofnewt intend to introduce “certain regulations, standards, attainment targets, key assessments, league tables, vouchers and general interference”. Typical. Can’t even find newts, but still want to regulate them. All governments seem to suffer from delusion that you can solve problems by setting targets. Personally, have target of living to 200. No support, even from Dorothea.

March 10, 1997

Group of newts discovered under rock at Wymondham, but Government refuses to recognise them. Not bad idea. Still, felt bound to describe inspectors’ report as “ridiculous, unreadable and an ideal doorstop”. Added in inspired moment that newts waiting to expand again and “if there’s anything worse than a group of newts, it’s a rock group”. Humour good weapon. Wonder what newts really up to.

Noticed that odd things happening in Hingham. Probably not newts, but you never know. Odd form of democracy being pioneered, where majority ignored. Sounds like newts. Must keep eye on it.