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.