London 1999
revisiting visits of the past


20 March 1999

Either the aftershock of jet lag or the tumult of literary-critical ideas I induced in myself gave me insomnia last night. In general the lack of coffee and all this walking has been inclinded to make both A. and me fall asleep pretty easily, but not yesterday. She was fine (when I gave up and turned on the light, she rolled over and muttered, "Weird dreams." "What kind?" I asked. "Weird," she said, and went back to sleep) but we both wound up sleeping later than we'd planned.

Nonetheless, we made it into town and had our usual visit to the post office. On the way we tried to look in at the church, encouraged by two other touristy types who disappeared. When we got there, it seemed quite locked, though a separate encounter with a similar door later in the day made us think that me may simply have failed to realize that the ring was meant to turn. We were once again a bit more experimental in our route--by now we're starting to get a decent idea of how the roads fit together. Aldeburgh is really an excellent specimen of the largeish English village; the more we see of other examples, the more I appreciate it.

As we waited to go meet Ron and Iris for lunch, everyone sat around and read the paper. The special features material is split over Saturday and Sunday, so there was lots of good stuff: the literary supplement and magaizine, as well as the news. I continue to be struck by the ways in which I get the impression that everything is much more intractably conservative here, while at the same time there seems to be a much more extant true left, and some of the social issues that cause Americans to flip out are treated as complete non-problems here--though I imagine people certainly exist who are equally wiggy on these subjects. I'll have to give this matter continued attention and consideration in London.

Lunch at the Wilford Bridge was festive, with lots of exhortations to eat plenty. Ron was full of information on good walks and on various ales, lagers, etc., including the reaction a very French waitress had when he ordered Guinnes on their 1947 honeymoon--she couldn't suppress a shudder when she saw the black stuff. Anandamayi and I managed to resist the general sentiment that we should order some hot main dish; I got a cheese and onion sandwich with a side of chips and she had a ploughman's with a side of onion rings. The last were especially good, cut very thin and in a nice light batter. Everyone was interested, and with sharing them out, A. was almost able to finish her lunch. I don't think anyone at the table quite managed that, though we were all perfectly happy with our selections, so for once we passed on dessert.

Nanny and Grandad dropped us off in Snape (where the music festival is held), where we promptly ignored all the shopping suggestions in favor of Ron's recommended walk. At first we had trouble finding a path that didn't peter out into the marsh. While we puttered around in search of a more servicable way, we came upon a soon-to-be-tilled field with lots of a particular kind of stone (flint, I think). It was a smooth, hard, sharp, and smoky translucent thing on the inside, but dull khaki rock on the outside. I suppose the examples we saw that had been split were broken when the field was plowed in years past.

We finally found a good long series of paths that would ultimately take us to the St. Bololph's Church in Iken. Part of the way, we were on a long wooden path on top of extra-damp marshlands, with metal mesh down the middle for extra traction on rainy days. At other points it was plain muddy or grassy pathway, and eventually we actually went along the road, which was notably lacking in much of a verge.

Along the way, we passed by lots of lovely, grassy marsh (and one Henry Moore sculpture, commissioned by Benjamin Britten, who incidentally is buried in the previously described courtyard) and a variety of livestock: First, big grubby pigs, marked with some kind of red ink on their backs, who lived in a giant mud field with many metal pig huts. They rooted around in the dirt but seemed only to find rocks, which they chewed loudly and collectively. There were also lovely long-haired cows and their insanely cute calves, who tottered slightly on their long legs, had gorgeous fringy eyelashes, and sported an especially plush and rumpled version of the long hair. Finally, there was a group of sheep who took a brief intense interest in us with a pointed chorus of soprano, tenor, and bass bleats before quickly realizing--much like the Thorpeness ducks--that we were actually quite dull, and returning to eating the grass and tender young evergreen trees.

The church was very medieval, but small and finishing up some extensive renovations. A sign outside thanked us for donations to help with these, which would improve/restore this church "which has been a pilgrimage for some many." I don't know why this is the case, unless because it is the natural end of a nice walk; it's a pleasant church, and old, but not astoundingly impressive.

On the way back, we had an extended and interesting discussion about what kind of photographs seem worthwhile after the fact. I do want to take more photos of super-everyday things. Of course, one is more inclined to take pictures of unusual events, but it's great to have the record of what was typical. Thinking back to my photos from Brown, those are certainly among my favorites.

We had to walk up the hill into Snape proper in order to use the phone--the girl at the Granary Tea House informed us that the only one in the little area where we'd been dropped off was in the pub, and that wasn't open at the moment. I was slightly concerned that Nanny and Grandad would be worried that we'd been gone so long, but they sounded fine. Perhaps they've absorbed the idea that we tend to go off for walks of many hours.

Between getting home and time for pre-dinner wine, we were both essentially inert. Wine, however, made us all more vivacious and talkative again. Dinner of cheese, crackers, and hard-boiled eggs was very nice, especially followed by tea and cookies. Mm, Jaffa cakes.

Speaking of photos of mundane subjects, I'd love to have one of Grandad as he falls asleep in his chair after dinner. Probably he would be less than flattered if I took one. I might grab the chance if it presents itself tomorrow, though.

***

Report has it that the mysterious tea shop is never open, as far as anyone can tell. Drats. Reading over Anandamayi's notes on the day has reminded me of the very pleasant but confused old lady who struck up a conversation with us as we waited for Grandad to bring the car around after lunch. I hadn't noticed but apparently she thought at first that we had walked there with her in the morning. She asked Nanny a lot about herself and was especially intrigued to hear that we were Americans, as Nanny has no accent. She herself had some unplacable U.K. accent--Midlands, maybe? The conversation had just gotten onto Clintion and his morals/strength of character (former: low; latter: high) when Grandad appeared.

Tonight's mystery: What is that horrible, periodic sound? A deep bass rumble that goes for a couple of seconds, stops, then starts again... we were confused and disturbed. At first it seemed like something outside, then I briefly believed it was remarkable snoring from my grandfather, but a new clonk! sound at the beginning made that seem unlikely. When it went on for a ten-second run on one iteration, we decided it had to be the dishwasher. But perhaps not? A. went downstairs to investigate. Definitely the dishwasher, but whether this is a proper or improper manifestation of its ways, we haven't been able to tell.

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