On my way home from Norfolk on Monday, the sun was shining, the sky was blue and I was in no rush whatsoever to join the motorway queues towards London. Having read so many wonderful descriptions of Aldeburgh on Jane Brocket’s blog over the years, I decided to take a short detour and see the town for myself. Aldeburgh is on the Suffolk coast, and as I wound my way along country lanes bordered by gorse filled meadows and shimmering yellow fields, and passed through postcard pretty villages of charming pale pink cottages, my anticipation mounted with every mile. Closer and closer I drove, waiting with every turn for a glimpse of the sea, a whiff of salty air and the cry of seagulls. Eventually I drove into Aldeburgh, and I was delighted as I saw the sea to my left, just visible in the gaps between the shops on the high street, which are so quaint that they could have come straight out of the pages of a Peter and Jane book. I parked up, took a huge lungful of sea air, and headed straight to the beach.
I gasped with amazement as I saw the beach; it is a huge expanse of golden coloured pebbles, undulating in large crested waves down to the sea. Thanks to this rather inhospitable environment, it was pretty much deserted, despite being a warm and sunny morning; the perfect place to walk and think and just be alone. I sat down on the beach and stared into the horizon, enjoying the solitude and the feeling of the sun warming my back. I was mesmerised by the muted beauty of the colours of the sky, sea and pebbles, and the light, which is so clear without being bright; perfect, I would imagine, for painters. Once I’d had my fill of thinking time, I went to explore the High Street. Unlike most British seaside towns, you won’t find tacky amusement arcades, run down shops selling terrible fudge and sun faded postcards or sleazy pubs in Aldeburgh; instead it feels like going back sixty or so years to the halcyon days when Tescos and Starbucks didn’t exist, and you could spend a happy morning popping into a variety of shops owned and run by people who cared about providing customer service and quality products, and once you’d filled your basket you could go to a tea shop and be served actual tea out of a pot and a slice of cake rather than brown liquid in a styrofoam cup and a ‘cupcake’ that is always too heavy on cloying icing and too light on actual cake. I was in raptures as I peered in at the window of the Cragg Sisters tea room, filled with vintage china and lovely little tables ready to seat customers (sadly not yet open); I delighted at the original 1920’s stained glass telling me which entrance for ‘Ladies Outfitting’ on the fascia of the High Street’s department store; my mouth watered at the display of traditional sweets in the lovely sweet shop, Shingle and Sherbet; and my fingers itched to browse in the dark and dusty looking second hand book shop (I didn’t risk going in – the damage to my purse could have been too great!).
I wished I could have spent a whole week in Aldeburgh; walking behind the High Street, I found row after row of beautiful cottages fringed with flowers; I found the stunning former home of Benjamin Britten; I found the amazing medieval Moot Hall; I found an independent cinema that looked like a Tudor cottage; I found loveliness upon loveliness upon loveliness, and I’m sure there’s even more I didn’t find. All the sea and sky and space was such a breath of fresh air, and after just an hour or so, I felt all the stress of the world melt away. After a week, I’m sure I would be the most laidback person in the entire country! I’m so glad I took the detour, and I’m looking forward to going back for a proper visit soon.
In other, more book related news, to those wanting to join me in reading Anna Karenina, get going! I am nearly 200 pages in and will do my first discussion post once I have read a quarter of the book, which in my edition is 250 pages.
Secondly, I have just discovered this wonderful new blog, written by a librarian at Sheffield Hallam university, who is reading through the library’s special collection of middlebrow fiction from 1900-1950. I’ve so enjoyed the posts so far and I am sure many of you will too. It sounds like such a fascinating project and I’m hoping it will introduce me to some new authors from the period!
Finally, shameless plug time – if you fancy something new and exciting to read this summer, check out my Etsy shop, where I have added a few books for sale thanks to starting to clear out the boxes of books I left in my mum’s attic. More will be added over the summer, so if nothing takes your fancy now, do keep checking back! I am raising money to buy (the very expensive) textbooks for my teaching course, so all custom will be much appreciated!