Friday, August 05, 2005

Suffolk Coast - Benjamin Britten territory

Drove 90 minutes east to the Suffolk coast this morning to survey the area between Aldeburgh (orld-brah) and Southwold. Benjamin Britten, was born in Lowestoft, a bit further north than Southwold, but later settled in Aldeburgh, and founded a festival which later took root in the old barley malting houses at nearby Snape.

Snape Maltings was the first stop for the day, about 7 miles before the coast. It's a large pleasantly-developed site, with concert hall, new music centre and a dash of shops and crafterias. I saw that their Proms series was in progress, and snapped up the last ticket to a concert that night: a cabaret of pianist-vocalist(-composer) (Sir) Richard Rodney Bennett and jazz-vocalist Claire Martin. I had seen RRB in a solo-cabaret at the Adelaide Festival in 1990 (one night after Blossom Dearie) and was keen for a repeat.

We then stopped in Aldeburgh for brunch and excellent coffee at munchies cafe. It's a trim little seaside town with nice eateries but seemingly free of the twee-er brand of gifte shoppes seen elsewhere. Over my meal, I finished reading Cloud Atlas, and started Al Franken's Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them.

I had a quick look over the wide pebbly beach, found a CD of Stan Tracey's Under Milk Wood Jazz Suite and then we moved on towards Dunwich. This fragment of a town is famous for being mostly lost to the sea due to dramatic erosion, having lost one mile of land over the last eight-hundred years. I parked near the beach and walked with Bondi up the coast about 1/2-way to Southwold while the tide was at its lowest. The "beach" is just endless pebbles, sifted constantly. I picked up the odd pebble, gauging shape and colour, or quasi-opalescence bestowed by the water, wishing I knew more about the geologic provenance of each one. They are like a sea of fantastically ornate eggs hatched by an infinitude of water-birds.

Between Aldeburgh and Dunwich I rummaged at an interesting old book shop in some village. I saw some nice first editions of material by mid-20th century authors I collect - "BB" (pen-name of Denys Pitchford-Watkins, 2005 is his centenary) and Beverley Nicholls (sometime ghost-writer of Melba's autobiography). Ended up passing them by (too expensive) and opted for a book of fables by Norton 'The Phantom Tollbooth' Juster.

The last new stop was Southwold, very definitely a seaside resort, albeit much cleaner than the west coast towns of Southport and Blackpool. The pier hosted an amusing collection of one-off slot-machines in the "Under the Pier Show".

I then returned to Snape Maltings for the evening concert. I preferred RRB's vocal manner to that of CM, although she did a very nice Joni Mitchell cover, and RRB even did an Elvis Costello song. At intermission I sat outside near a sculpture of a bee/wasp covered cello on a rock ('Celloswarm'). People kept asking me if I was the sculptor (apparently I had 'that look'), and I began to wonder if it really mattered if I normally had a large malamute in tow, or it was just that people like to ask me questions. I find that wherever I go, I'm asked for directions within minutes of arriving, and I constantly get asked for advice/directions in certain stores, even when there are uniformed staff at hand.

The evening was capped by a 90 minute drive back through darkening hedgerow-lined B-roads to the A14 and thence to Newmarket.

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