I booked this short break on the Suffolk coast in an effort to get my R&R closer to home. For my last few holidays I have spent the best part of a day driving somewhere beautiful beside the seaside, but then I remembered that I wasn’t that far away from some stunning areas of coastline right here.
Following that logic, I could have stayed home and had my holiday in a series of day trips; it took less than an hour to get to Southwold, driving slowly. But staying home meant nothing being different, and I needed a change in order to make things happen. I wanted to have no excuses: to make myself get out and about, tramping the footpaths and coming home to write, maybe even getting the pencils and paint out to capture a scenic view. I’ve walked enough that my feet hurt, although hardly long distance. I’ve breathed in the fresh air and listened to the mournful calls of wading birds on the marshes. I’ve done the things I had in my imagination, and do feel in a different mental space, which is the basic requirement of a holiday I guess.
I didn’t have a great start. My first day filled me with sadness and a small sense of dread about my future. I was early for getting access to the flat I had booked, so I walked along the High Street to a little tea shop to get a bite for lunch. It was cute looking (if a bit dark) in an Olde Worlde sort of way, with a sweet shop at the front. There was a moment when I walked into the second room where I could have turned on my heel and walked out. For the life of me, I can’t explain why I didn’t. Maybe I thought that first impressions could be wrong. Anyway, I sat down and ordered my soup of the day. The only other people in this café were three ladies of a certain age, with their short grey hair, sensible shoes and coats and a slightly shrivelled look about them, each at a different table. It suddenly struck me that I made it a fourth. They were all having a proper meal, and all I could hear was the scraping of knives as they ate. On the windowsill to my right, there was a collection of badly knitted bobble hats and baby matinee jackets for sale, all in pastel colours. I felt as though I was in a care home. The décor didn’t help – it looked as though nothing had changed since the 1950’s, and I wondered if the same clientele came here daily for their sustenance. How do old ladies eat so much? They each progressed through a substantial main course on to the pudding, while I scoffed my soup and roll and made my escape. By then a middle aged couple and a young family had taken another two tables, although the deathly hush seemed to continue. I wandered along the high street and discovered other coffee bars and cafés that looked so much more inviting, and I wondered why I had been fool enough to stay in what felt like the time warp from hell.
I do think Southwold is a really odd place. So many rich people live here. Why? Some of the houses are lovely, so perhaps it is just the availability of a des res and the comfort of neighbours with money. I’m not sure I understand the attractions though. It seems lacking in life – by that I suppose I mean young life. Sure, people bring their children for the beach in the summer, but I’m talking about youth and creativity. It doesn’t feel the slightest bit dynamic. It’s disappointing that so many houses are clearly second homes or holiday lets and the shops are full of what I would call temporary treats and tat. I know that it is mean to be so critical of what is essentially a beautiful place, but it just doesn’t feel real. All the same, I have to say thanks for all the free parking (although I’m guessing they can afford it).
I’ve had a lazy, undemanding time, with no access to the internet. I’ve had reasonable weather and gone for walks, and driven down to other places along the Suffolk coast – Aldeburgh and Woodbridge. I have frequently thought about moving as I get closer to retirement, and I thought it might be somewhere by the sea. I’ve tried to imagine myself living in these seaside places – and realised that they are just another place to be, with a view, and I can take my choice of them by staying exactly where I am.
I realise how lucky I am to be in Norwich. I am slap bang in the middle of the county, an easy distance from the beautiful north coast resorts of Wells and Holkham, Blakeney and Cromer, the lovely east coast at Winterton, and a trip down to the Suffolk coast whenever I want. So because the weather was lovely, I did another quick trip to Winterton. I was worried that the beach café would have fallen into the sea during the winter storms, but it is still there – there is some obvious damage to the beach levels, but everything was gorgeous as usual. We are truly blessed to have this little piece of heaven virtually on our doorstep.