Herewith a continuing account of the adventures in England in 2017, written on the spot with scant reworking. The events depicted took place two weeks ago.
There is a peril affecting this sceptered isle, and it had best be confronted forthrightly without sentiment. The newspaper is here to sort you out and put things in perspective.
One of the things I love about England is the newspapers - they sit on the table in the hotel lobby stacked high, thick as winter blankets, stuffed with things to read and think about. It’s possible that one of the reasons people buy them is the wealth of content. I know it sounds absurd but it’s possible.
Uber to Liverpool station, where we hung around for a while.
In the line to buy the ticket I told Daughter I should place my order in a cliched English voice. COR GUVNOR. Apparently I said it too loudly because she looked as though she wished the world would open up and consume her; I thought I was speaking softly. As it happened the clerk was Polish, like 80% of all the service personnel here. Can’t quite get used to everyone in England who’s pulling coffee or selling you something has an Eastern European accent.
Except for the spotty lad at the information booth who agreed with everything I said about the train for Darsham actually being posted as Norwich. Yes, yes. and we change at Ipswitch for Darsham? Yes. yes. And badgers are a threat that must be culled? Yes, yes. I assume he was with the railroad; could have just put on a vest he made at home and hung around the station because he’s really, really into trains.
Bought some things to eat at a store, including a tin of Smints. Daughter wanted to do the check-out. The machine didn’t recognize the Smints. It shut down and began to reboot. She went to another machine; it, too, was similarly flummoxed by the Smints, and now there’s a LINE and she says she’s the STUPID AMERICAINE who cannot figure out the ways of this island.
“They wouldn’t say Americaine like the French.”
“No but they would think it.”
Perhaps so. Perhaps in every culture when they silently curse the Americans, they do so in French.
A war memorial:
Neutral observers? Seems an odd choice of words.
Charles Algernon Fryatt (2 December 1872 – 27 July 1916) was a British mariner who was executed by the Germans for attempting to ram a U-boat in 1915. When his ship, the SS Brussels, was captured off the Netherlands in 1916, he was court-martialled and sentenced to death although he was a civilian non-combatant. International outrage followed his execution near Bruges, Belgium. In 1919, his body was reburied with full honours in the United Kingdom.
The train was called, and I lost the bet.
Rumbled into the countryside. We had to do the Ipswitch Switch, which means you leave the train, take the lift up to a bridge, cross over, bump your suitcase down the stairs because you haven’t time to wait for the lift because the train you’re going to take is already there, waiting. At least you hope it is. But it was. They’d held the train for the London train, which was ten minutes late. No one seemed particularly aggravated by it, and we got underway a few minutes after piling on. Another half-hour or so to Darsham, and there was Astrid, full of joy and consolation. (The Scout story having traveled to the ends of England.)
Back in Walberswick, delighted beyond measure.
There’s no place like Walbers. Correction: I’m sure the world abounds with places like this; it has to. That’s what makes this globe so remarkable, and makes the idea of other civilizations on other planets so tantalizing. Surely they’d have an analogue - an outpost on the edge of an island, removed but attached, representative but different, its culture specific to the region but familiar to someone from another continent.
Off to the Bell before we went to the Anchor.
The beer is incredible, but I knew that. It comes from the Adnan’s brewery across the narrow river, so it’s as fresh as possible. The bartender at the Anchor is my friend’s son, so I just told him to pour what he thought I should have in half-pint increments. People kept coming by to sit at the table and chat - half of them had dogs in tow. When we left we walked home under the bright crowded sky you only get when there aren’t any lights on anywhere. The big dipper, close and bright as a billboard.
Boom: eight solid hours of sleep so deep I dreamed of phosphorescent fish.
The Walberswick Fete. A village fair. We missed the dyed sheep; I hear they were pink for the weekend.
Every possible heart-warming small-town detail: a dog show, with medals for best trick, waggiest tale, and so on. Games of skill and chance. Pirates. Ukulele orchestras. The last was amusing, because when it starts out you’re charmed, and after nine verses your face is frozen in a smile. Enjoy yourself it’s later than you think / enjoy yourself while you’re still in the pink Well I was when you started, mate.
Brief crappy video, because I was having too much fun to think about shooting video.
There were games of skill, including Splat the Rat, of course.
Then back through the lanes to the King House.
In the afternoon we drove to Snape. To be specific, to Snape Maltings. There are combinations of words in this country that sound like English, but you can’t quite figure them out right away. “We’re off to Snape Maltings” makes sense if you think about it - Snape is probably a place, although perhaps Maltings is the place and you’re going to go Snape it. Oh, if there’s one thing I love to snape, it’s a Maltings.
Really? I’ve never snaped there.
The Maltings is a reclaimed industrial facility. Once burly men lifted things here and put them down and shouted at lorries and before that shouted at the man driving the horses. They smelled at the end of the day and made a living for their family, and the product they made assisted the manufacture of mild intoxicants.
Now it’s all arts. A few theaters - world-class, of course, so no one need feel any shame if someone from The Greater World drops by - and bookstores, galleries, and so on. Often these places make me sad, since they represent millions of dollars of public investments and the end result is a clerk sitting alone in a store full of cards and notebooks and candles and mugs, and no one ever shows up. But it seems to be doing all right, even though it has some ridiculous pieces of modern art outside, including two huge rectangular stones with a few words of Ezra Pound engraved on the base. (“I can’t find my keys” and “Benito tickled my heart in a dream”) (No.)
Why were we here? For ABBA. It’s complicated. Denis was performing on a ship a while ago, and made the acquaintance of a singer in a trio, also performing on the ship. On Saturday - and I don’t know how, except that Denis put her up to it - she was part of the COME AND SING annual festival at the Maltings, where everyone shows up to sing popular songs. The first seven hours of the show, the audience practices the songs with the band and singer and chorus, and after a 90 second intermission everyone sings ABBA for the next six hours, or so it all seems. We were still jet lagged.
There are a few ABBA songs I like - how can you not? - but the lyrics do not profit from detailed examination. So there you are singing with gusto words you cannot possibly want to sing with any degree of conviction. But Sarah gave “Winner Takes It All” a quality of pathos that’s in the song and the general intention of the lyrics, surpassing the specific and ridiculous imagery -
The judges will decide The likes of me abide / Spectators of the show / Always staying low / The game is on again A lover or a friend
Okay. The judges of expired relationships have handed down their verdict, and you - as well as those who are like you - shall not abide! Spectators, take note, but remain low, for the game is on. On again.
For all that, it ended up being great fun, and if you weren't buoyed by the singer or the audience, you had a heart of stone with Ezra Pound quotes carved on the side.
BTW, some of the people dressed up in “Period Costume,” which was ridiculous - no one dressed like that in those days unless they were on a sci-fi show set in 1997 - and it made you think the mid-70s / early 80s have been completely forgotten and reimagined as some offshoot of 60s psychedelia, as well as a continuation of Mod.
Dinner at the King’s, something fantastic Astrid conjured up, and then staggering down the dark path to the BnB around the lane.
Wonderful day. Other end of the world, and home. Next up? Well, we haven’t heard the last of that Abba singer. But that's tomorrow.