It’s no secret that the family on my mum’s side is bigger, louder and more addicted to WhatsApp than my dad’s East Anglian contingent. But there was always something relaxing and magical about our childhood trips up to Suffolk, and by some strange alchemy Tash and I both picked the same weekend to induct Cormac and Randi respectively into the joys of Coney Weston and Knettishall Heath. Naturally we had both also asked our cousin Julie to drive us around our old haunts on a rainy Saturday afternoon, and (since she is wonderful and very patient) that is how we came to be loitering together outside of our grandparents’ old bungalow taking photos through the hedges and assuring the new owners that we’d leave in a minute.
As it happens, Randi has been a fan of Bury St Edmunds since her very first visit to the UK and this trip only cemented its reputation as the foodie capital of Suffolk. (In all honesty, good luck finding better toasties anywhere else.) We also hung around for the Bury St Edmunds Fireworks Spectacular, an event which looked to be in some danger of cancellation for the second year running before the organisers determined that all of the undeniable wind and rain was nevertheless blowing away from us all in an acceptable direction. Pretty fireworks, check. First mulled wine of the winter season, check. My only complaint was the lack of any bonfire, which I still need to prove to Randi is actually a core component of Bonfire Night.
After the fireworks, Randi and I stayed over with Julie in the village of Harleston before enjoying a delicious farm-sourced breakfast and hanging out with her partner David, her parents Derek and Ginny and her son Kieron who (shockingly and frighteningly, since in my head he’s about 8) is now an actual adult who can chat to me about work while also very kindly cutting my hair. (This is a professional skill he has, not some odd family ritual involving clippers.) It was so wonderful to see everyone again after way too long and I’m already excited about our next trip up there! Although hopefully next time we won’t have to spend over an hour on the way back stranded in a field between Diss and Stowmarket after our train “hit an obstruction” while the driver went back-and-forth with control about whether it was a better option to (a) empty the last two carriages and proceed on at 5mph without breaks or (b) summon a “rescue train” and evacuate over the tracks…*
Continuing the nostalgic childhood theme, last week I had a delightful meet-up with my old piano teacher, Simon. I’d love to say something normal like “we just ran into each other after all these years!” but the truth is that I was inspired by an old photo to stalk him over e-mail and invite him to dinner and drinks which he graciously accepted despite not having seen me since I was 10. (I wasn’t even a very good piano player, to be honest, but he was too tactful to mention this.)
When not stalking people I have also been seeing a bunch of good stuff recently, starting with Translations at the National which is the kind of complex, multi-layered play (about the colonialism of the English language in Ireland) which makes me wish I was still in an A-Level English class to examine it all. Katie and I continued our classic Doctor Who odyssey in her new flat with The Greatest Show in the Galaxy (a flawed masterpiece) while Randi and I went out to the cinema to see Chris Morris’s new film The Day Shall Come (the spiritual successor to Four Lions which comes close to matching it for enjoyable terrorist slapstick before the brutal ending) and to the London Palladium to see German comedian Henning Wehn in stand-up. (You know him! He’s the one from the panel shows!) We also explored Putney, walked along the banks of the Thames a lot and met up with Harriet and her husband Zach for lunch in Golders Green so that Randi could finally lay her hands on some decent challah bread in London.
This week was also the week that I got a little too invested in Halloween. I’ve never really been a huge fan myself – give me mulled wine over fancy dress any day – but I do appreciate other people enjoying themselves, especially when those other people are young children who have made the effort to dress up and shakedown their neighbours for sweets. So I raced back from work early to put out a few lanterns, affix a scary doorbell to the door and pour out 50 mini bags of Haribo and some chocolate into some large bowls. For a horrible hour I proceeded to pace around our flat, sticking my head out the window and looking forlornly up and down the empty street. But, then, a Halloween miracle! The trick-or-treaters arrived, the children’s demands for sugar were met and the spooky tones of the scary doorbell rang out into the dark for all of Tulse Hill to hear.
*Disappointingly, they ended up going with the first option.