diamond geezer

 Friday, April 23, 2010

Postcards from England

Saxmundham High StreetSaxmundham: Albion Street. A row of brick terraces. The barriers warble, and a lady shopper hurries through before they descend. A train approaches, slowing gently past the signal box into a sun-blessed platform. Passengers tumble out, some with backpacks, one led patiently by a guide dog. In the car park, diverse journeys continue. One lady arrives beside the guard's van too late and argues in vain to be allowed aboard. The next train's not for two hours, so she's a long wait ahead. Down in the High Street every shopfront sports the flag of St George. Together they make a patriotic statement, but for now each hangs limply in insufficient breeze. Many of the shop windows have special red-and-white displays as a badge of celebration and allegiance. A draped pennant, a vase of roses, a knitted dragon, a teddy bear in an England shirt. The townsfolk of Sax are partying for George this weekend, and everyone's included. There's a Punch and Judy for the kids tomorrow, a Roast Beef dinner in the evening, plus a formal civic parade through the streets on Sunday. Meet by the Market Hall at 3pm sharp, and see you back afterwards for the Women's Institute tea.

Aldeburgh Moot HallAldeburgh: This is Britten's England. A classical haunt by the sea. Here one of our most famous modern composers made his home, in the Red House overlooking the heath, shacked up with his favourite tenor. April's the start of the tourist season, and the visitors duly come. They park on the sea wall at the neck of a ten mile shingle spit, down which no mere citizen may proceed. Instead they sail their yachts in the diverted river, or potter about in the bookshops and tearooms, or buy tickets for a very English opera. The fish and chip shop does a roaring trade, doling out moist greasy parcels with "do not feed the seagulls" printed on the front. For those who fancy frying themselves, fresh-caught cod is available in wooden huts strung out along the beach. The seafront, and the lanes behind, are stacked with pink and yellow cottages. On a late April weekday, the promenade belongs to the happily retired. Far up the beach, further than most will walk, a giant metal scallop erupts from the shingle. Is it art or is it eyesore? The community is split, but most visitors believe it does Britten proud.

Thorpeness MereThorpeness: He thought Southwold was "too vulgar". He wanted a resort with class and style. So Stuart Ogilvie came to Thorpeness, 100 years ago, and built himself England's first holiday village. Here he constructed a fantasy collection of mock Tudor cottages, with fake Jacobean infill, and used them all as holiday homes for friends and family. No building was quite what it seemed. Most outlandish of all was the disguise erected around the village water tower, which was clad to look like a five-storey house with a red cottage perched on top. It still pokes above the treeline, beside the windmill, and overlooking the three-foot-deep boating lake. Oglivie's once private enclave is now a public concern, ideal for short trips and long stays. On the village green, the Dolphin pub serves up "Roast and crumble" for less than a tenner. On the Meare, scores of brightly-painted rowing boats are identified by girls' names that are no longer popular. And in the waterside café, if you don't fancy Suffolk ham, chips and beans, the cream teas slip down a treat. Dollop of cream, dollop of jam, pot of leaves in water. Oh to be in England.

My photos from Suffolk Coastal...
Scallop shell sculpture; Scallop shell with toddler; Moot Hall; Lookout Tower; Neck of Orford Ness.
Thorpeness: The House In The Clouds; House In The Clouds plus windmill; the Meare boating lake; fantasy buildings.

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Life viewed from London E3

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