TV Days

Did anyone see Casualty the other night?  It was hilarious!  We always have a laugh watching the series; what with people getting blown up and burnt and overturning in huge lorries and crashing vehicles in bizarre and interesting ways which not even Jeremy Clarkson would have thought of; and presenting with weird and obscure diseases – and what with the staff all going out with each other and marrying each other and not seeming to have a life outside the hospital (except when they leave their shift to go and sort out the personal lives of the patients, which they do on a regular basis) – altogether ‘Casualty’ is a laugh a minute.  And the latest episode didn’t disappoint.

I never really ‘bought’ Max and Zoe as a couple.  He’s a lightweight, she’s a professional (except that – and I’m sorry to have to say this because it sounds really judgemental) she has the morals of an alley-cat.  OK let’s put that in a slightly more PC way.  She is blown hither and thither by the winds of circumstance and whim (hey, the winds of whim – that’s a good phrase) and the night before her wedding she goes and sleeps with someone.  She feels terrible, nearly calls the wedding off but then it happens and then hey presto! along comes Dylan to wreck it all by blurting out ‘Oh, so you told him then?’ after they’ve got spliced.  Everything goes awry after that and it ends with two terrifically explosive fires in which probably the entire cast dies.


On holiday I mostly watched the tennis as it was great to see it live.  And last night there was an absolutely brilliant new episode of ‘Goodness Gracious Me’ based in India.  You must watch!  The ‘Brownadder’ episode is particularly mention-worthy.

Kirk out

Why Holiday?

It has come to my attention that there are curmudgeons out there (you know who you are) who do not Appreciate Holidays.  I cannot understand this: holidays are as necessary to me as breathing and if I don’t get one (which basically I haven’t since 2011; the last three years having allowed me a total of five days away, two in a freezing tent in Derbyshire and three in Barrow-on-Soar) I start to go seriously weird. So here to explain, if not to convince, are some of my reasons for going on holiday.

Holidays have many joys. To have a change of scene; to let go of everyday thoughts and actions; to abandon all routine and to establish a new routine which is based on the old one but like a light-hearted version of it. Holiday routines are playful and can be changed at any time: if I want to sleep in, or get up early, or stay up late, why not?  You play at having a life; at shopping, at living in your cottage, at taking your morning walk. Even the time spent establishing yourself in the cottage is part of the pleasure of being on holiday.

To have different thoughts; different conversations; different food. We made full use of the local shops to buy wine, local cheeses, fresh vegetables from the small (and horribly expensive) greengrocer as well as ripe peaches and strawberries. We also had fresh local bread nearly every day and cooked every evening apart from fish-and-chip night.

To sit in the porch (all made of glass) on one of the window-seats and look at the sea; or to hop barefoot across the hot tarmac road with a cuppa in one hand and a book in the other and pass a pleasant hour before dinner. The cottage had a whole shelf full of novels and I wish I’d written down the ones I read; but the only one I remember was called ‘Purple Hibiscus’, about a child growing up with an abusive father in Africa. The father was a Catholic convert and obsessively religious.

To go down to the beach in the morning with my yoga mat, to find a flat(-ish) spot to do my asanas facing the waves and feeling the sun on my face. To wake at five and see the sun half a yard above the waves, casting a wide orange light like a still lighthouse (I wished I’d had a camera then) and to wake another night at midnight and see forked lightning attack the sea and wake up the whole sky – this is why we go on holiday.

I can’t help feeling sorry for those stuck in Britain and confined to school holidays, as the weather has been pretty dismal this year. We had the best of the summer as we had hot, sunny weather just about every day – and we were there for the hottest day EVER! (remember that?) although what with the sea breeze it was just about perfect. Holly is about to go to Spain for a week, for a well-earned break, so I wish her and Tom a lovely holiday and as for the rest of us, if you haven’t been anywhere and you don’t like holidays you should probably go to Dismaland.

I think this is great!  I’d love to go but it’s a bit far – and I’m happy to see they are now taking action against ticket touts.  You wouldn’t find a ticket tout in Southwold – the very air would make them ill.


Kirk out

But What IS Southwold?

Let me try to convey to you in words some image of what Southwold is like.  Best described as a teenager’s nightmare, it was actually filmed as such in ‘East of Ipswich,’ a TV drama by Michael Palin.  Nothing happens in Southwold: there are no discos or clubs, no cinemas except a tiny one which I shall describe later; no loud, happening pubs, no wild parties or barbecues on the beach or mad cruises or water-skiing or anything!  It is dull, dull, dull – and I love it.

How do I love it?  Let me count the ways.  I love it for its triangularity.  Even though this cost me a lot of problems because I couldn’t get a mental map of it into my head, because of the wobbliness of the coast the sea seems to be at the end of every street, unlike most coastal towns where the sea is at one end; even so it’s three-sidedness is very attractive.  The triangular greens were originally fire-breaks after the town was destroyed by fire.  In fact it’s practically Biblical, what’s happened to it because it was nearly destroyed by flood in 1953, as was so much of that coast.  There’s a mark where the water reached and when you consider how far down the beach is, that’s really quite sobering.

The picture below is outside the Harbour Pub, but there’s another in the town.

There are no supermarkets besides a Co-op; and lots of small independent shops – greengrocer’s, delis, bookshops and clothes shops.  And the beer is of course superb; but added to all this is the sheer niceness of the people.  Everyone speaks, everyone says hello, everyone is considerate and polite, and the traffic (what there is of it) goes at a sedate twenty miles an hour.

And here is a picture of the massive Blythburgh church, the so-called Cathedral of the Marshes:

That figure just entering it is me.

And this is what it’s like inside:

Southwold itself has a lighthouse which is still working (I could see it when I woke in the night, casting a ghostly light on the water).  I was surprised by this as most boats have all kinds of electronic navigational equipment nowadays, but there it is.  The lighthouse is visible from all over town, except when you’re near it: I was a few yards away when I was asked by two women if I knew where it was!

Our little flat was just over the road from the sea.  Here you can see Peter demonstrating just how visible the lighthouse was.

Kirk out

My Mad Holiday Diary

When we arrived at our holiday cottage in Southwold there was a pile of stuff waiting for us; not only the usual tea, coffee and biscuits (the little malted ones you seem to get everywhere nowadays) but also some brochures and – tucked away among them – a little notebook just perfect for writing a holiday journal.  So I shall regale you with some snippets from my journal of Southwold.



The sheer joy of walking through poppies, marshes, bracken, finding a place to pee where no man comes, then a path through the trees.  This cafe does Assam with soya milk and oo! extra hot water.  I remember a sitcom called ‘Constant Hot Water’ where Elsie Tanner from Coronation St ran a B&B.

This place reminds me of a Youth Hostel.  You used to make your own meals and do a chore before you left.  And now back across the river and up to the water tower.

It was a truly terrific journey yesterday; one of the best ever, without hassle, without misery and without incident.

A spot of rain now.

In the Lord Nelson

The sea is at the end of every street here – it’s all triangles and corners and coast.


Yoga on the beach.  Really warm.  Nobody about but a few people walking their dogs.  Everyone says hello.


Swam yesterday and today.  Very cold.  Lost cossie so bought two bikinis from Sue Ryder shop for a tenner.

This afternoon we went to Dunwich.  Had a look at the beach and the museum.  Left Peter in the pub while I went for a walk.  Found a forest.  Looked at Blythburgh church on the way back.


A very vivid dream in which I was furious with Mark for spending £6250 on a small spare part for a van owned by a community project.  Phoned and told him about it.  Seemed like we were together drinking tea in bed in the morning.

Later in the Lord Nelson got talking to some locals.  They are reading the tabloids and telling each other scandalous stories with great relish whilst assuring each other they don’t believe a word of it.  One guy has his own glass made from something industrial, I can’t remember what.

Brewery trip tomorrow plus fish and chips at the Harbour.

Alan Bennett this afternoon was very good.  One woman doing two pieces; ‘A Bed Among the Lentils’, whcih is the one with the clergyman’s wife (Mum wouldn’t have liked it) and ‘Lady of Letters’ which was the one Patricia Routledge did.  Oldest fig tree in England in Dunwich pub, apparently.

Want to hire a bike some time.

Hottest day EVER in England and consequently at Wimbledon.  Andy Murray is doing pretty well and Heather Watson played a blinder.


B-e-a-utiful morning.  Woke about five and saw the sun over the sea.  Wish I could have seen it rise but it’s too early to wake up then.


At the Ship Inn, Dunwich.

Gone and knackered myself getting here and worried about getting back.  Got lost.  Paths hard to cycle on – tree roots or dry sand – I kept getting stuck.  Paths not very well marked – about a dozen branching here and there and all saying helpfully ‘bridlepath’.

The garden of the Ship is lovely.  The fig tree is huge.


At the Vine pub, an unknown village in Cambs.  The pub advertised food and does not do it.  Barmaid disappears with a sponge to wipe the offending word off the blackboard.  Peter has a pint of Adnam’s Lighthouse which he says is not good.  Another couple have come seeking food.  They seem fairly good-humoured about it, but when I remark that the other pubs in the village do meals he says, ‘it’s too late now’, as though it’s all my fault.

Knackered from cycling yesterday.

Home in time for tea.

Kirk out

Back to the Draining-Board…

I’ve left you for far too long. I was only going to take a week or two off, but then – you know how it is – you get into holiday mode and you say to yourself, ‘just a few more days’ and days turn into weeks and before you know it September is looming, and torrential rain is pouring down, determined to spoil what remains of the summer holidays – and I realise it’s been two entire months since I last posted.

To be fair I was utterly exhausted at the end of June. I’d been working hard and needed a holiday – and then Artbeat just about finished me off. I got a heavy cold on the last day and had to cry off going to a panel event on ‘writers talking about writing’. So I was only too happy to be going away the following Saturday. The car we hired was not quite so bristly with functions as the previous one, and I almost got the hang of the handbrake before the week was out. But I was never quite sure that when we parked, say, by the river to have our fish and chips * from the excellent Harbour Inn in Southwold, the car wouldn’t roll gently forward and upend itself in the water.

I had a terrific time. Southwold is lovely: it’s sort of like Clarendon Park on Sea, with all its independent shops; plus there’s a brewery (Adnams) which we visited, and some excellent pubs, which ditto. The town was destroyed by fire in 1660-something and was rebuilt around a series of greens, so that it seems to be all triangles with the sea at the end of every street. We had really hot weather (remember that hot week?) and I swam nearly every day. On the Friday I hired a bike and cycled over to Dunwich.

Dunwich is a creepy place. It’s a tiny village now but was once an important port; and since the 13th century it has been falling into the sea: Southwold was destroyed by fire, and Dunwich by water. In the pub, The Ship, there’s an enormous fig-tree which claims to be the oldest in the world. It could easily be true: it takes up half the garden.

We also went to see the so-called ‘Cathedral of the Marshes’, the church at Blythburgh. If you catch it at the right angle it’s very impressive: a massive building on a promontary looking out over the marshland. We tried to find out some more about it, but all we found was a sign saying ‘Please Shut the Door to Keep the Birds Out’.

They don’t seem to go in for information much in Suffolk.

On the way home we discovered a tiny village called Long something in Cambridgeshire, standing right next to the A1 on the old Great North Rd. The first pub we went to advertised food but didn’t actually do any; but the second, a frighteningly expensive hotel dating from the 16th century, did.

So after that I came home and spent at least a fortnight staring out of the window before we were all propelled into a frenzy of activity preparing for a house inspection which, when it came, was all sweetness and light and over in about five minutes.

Oh, and there was an arts festival on in Southwold – but I’ll tell you about that tomorrow.  Meanwhile, here’s a photo of the beach which was just over the road from our flat.

So, that’s enough about me. How have you been?

Kirk out

* I had deep-fried haloumi and chips