The best laid plans and all that. We are on a visit to Suffolk and had this rather neat plan sketched out. While the Textiliste headed for Beecles and a particularly fine example of Emporia Haberdasheri (I am not aware that any such shops can be categorized as being less than ‘fine’ in truth; their very existence grants them a pass enabling them to skip the awful-to-adequate stages on the retail spectrum) Dog and me were off on a walk that would take us across country to the east coast at Covehithe and then south into Southwold where we would link up.
That’s before the bloody Germans decided to bugger us around. I’m not entirely sure why we bought a Volkswagon after our love affair with Saabs died alongside the company but we did. It looks nice enough in a sort of oiled woodlouse kind of way and is sufficiently capacious to take Dog, two weekend bags and the sort of paraphernalia you might associate with a peripatetic dressmaker whose been commissioned to clothe the entire Game of Thrones cast, but is in fact what the Textiliste ‘needs’ for a weekend. But boy do the gizmos that keep the wheels moving keep us on our toes.
We were maybe a mile for where we were to be dropped off when a sign like the dashboard had been possessed by astrological aliens lit up and the Textiliste said ‘we’ve gone limp’. Now, stop sniggering at the back, Pendulum Major and pay attention.
‘Limp Mood’ is a technical expression that means you are not totally fucked, just in a transitional state that leads from ‘it was all right when we set off’ to ‘yep, you’re fucked now.’ You have a window, an opportunity to reach a reputable mechanic before everything shuts down, you pop on the hazards and pull out the box of hat pins and the Merkel doll that it has become customary for us to take on long journeys. While you await a tow, you can spend hours happily perforating kapok.
The nearest mechanic, reputable or otherwise was in Lowestoft, some ten miles to the north. On the one hand that seems lucky, serendipitous almost; on the other you only think that if you’ve never been to Lowestoft.
Many people have commented on the fact that the British Isles, when viewed on a map, resembles an old man kneeling down and looking west. If that were so then Kent are his feet and East Anglia his rump. That makes Lowestoft England’s anus.
Still, never say we don’t try and make the best of it. Having been told they would call in a couple of hours with a diagnosis we headed east about half a mile to the coast and then north towards the town. We rationalised things thus:
- Lowestoft is out of season so the worst effects of English holiday resorts would be moderated by the fact it was November – namely they would be shut
- However, coffee shops would probably remain open for trade so we may well be able to secure a repast; and
- My iPad indicated at least three Haberdasheries…
Hmm, well Dog and I supposed we could find somewhere for a bit of a wander.
We’d settled for that coffee when the call came in. Something splenetic in the oil region needed hybridising or some such – I’m not completely au fait with the vital organs of the infernal combustion engine but I think I’m close enough. The result was no, it wouldn’t be ready today but yes tomorrow mid morning would be fine. And before you ask, no we don’t have a spare car you can use, even though they had a forecourt full of them. They were being anti-white-doggist if you ask me which is understandable in cars with predominately black upholstery – his hairs are a right sod to remove.
The Textiliste and I mulled the options. We could take a cab hither and yon or see if we could get a deal on a hire car. We decided on the latter.
There was a time when my new musical choices tended to be sourced from listening to the radio. These days, having spent unconscionable amounts of time holding for ‘your call is important to us’ to be repeated for the umpteenth occasion I have heard pretty much every known tune and can choose from these playlists. Indeed I was intrigued by one of the messages they intersperse between tracks; ‘we provide a pick up and collection service from wherever you are: work, home, the garage…’ I wondered how they’d react if I said ‘Sweden’.
Eventually that too was sorted but we had to wait until 3.30 for the car to be ready. Time for one of us to haberdash…
Another simple plan; Dog and I would stroll for a while, the Textilsite would survey the opportunities and we could lunch in a dog friendly establishment – Coffee Heart if you ever find yourself with an hour to kill hereabouts. After… who knew.
We headed for Ness Point which I was told was the easterliest point of mainland Britain. We found it behind the most enormous Bird’s Eye factory. The nearest equivalent on this coast is the Sizewell Nuclear Power Station and the output probably as good for you from each.
It allowed for a couple of arty pics and we two to ponder the purpose of this rotunda and why someone would put a seat around the bottom.
We meandered back to the High Street Haberdashery and were welcomed inside. There amongst the ephemera that is essential to these particular creative arts was a little leaflet. We had our afternoon organised in one.
The ‘Scores’ are the passages that used to lead off the north cliffs down to the fishing boats.
There’s the easterliest church – All Saints in which a boat floated during the devastating floods of 1953.
Over time inns were set up at the top and the Scores took their names from some of these establishments nearby or some of the longer established families.
The place reeks of smuggling and piracy and, er, fish. Oliver Cromwell stayed in one pub pending quelling a royalist incursion – it took about half an hour.
George II ran aground on his way back from Hanover and stayed the night at the top of another Score before returning to London by road.
There’s a post celebrating the hundredth anniversary of the Armada’s defeat erected in the 1600s.
And a line of tablets with details of the famous ships built hereabouts.
The crinkle crankle walls are a Suffolk speciality – designed to stand as a single course of bricks without buttresses and withstand the easterly winds. They are represented here.
As too are weirdy skeletal fishy sculptures and inserts in the pavements.
And there were steps. Lots and lots of steps. It’s a walk to keep you fit. And you know what? It was very enjoyable.
But this day wouldn’t have ended right if we’d had enough time to do it all. The clock began to tick before we could reach the end – the intriguingly named ‘Ravine’ – so we had to turnabout and go collect the motor.
It was a good day, all in, considering the high degrees of buggeration involved in it. And it proved once again a truism I keep having to learn. My petty prejudices against places should be ignored; give somewhere enough time and you’ll always find something worthwhile about it to justify the visit.
Excluding Milton Keynes, obv.
We may even go back and finish what we started…