These past few weeks have been so busy that when my girlfriend told me we were going to go and stay with her godmother one weekend in June I didn’t even bother to ask where she lived.
As it turns out, she lives in Suffolk and writing this post from her spare bedroom (although still very much hungover from last night) I’m feeling really excited to be here.
It’s a county that has always eluded me. Living on the Humber estuary on the north-east coast, everywhere south of us was like another dimension. Only ever seen from the north of the river, I remember having a sense, when I was a child, that everything “over there” was just a painted backdrop.
Infrequent trips over the Humber Bridge were filled with wonder and later accompanied by a complete amnesia of what was over the other side. When we did need to go south, we’d go around the end of the Humber estuary rather than over it. I’d never even been to Grimsby before I was 25.
Suffice it to say, if Lincolnshire is still another planet to me, Suffolk is another galaxy, but I’ve always wanted to come here.
W.G. Sebald’s Rings of Saturn, which describes a physical and mental journey along its coastline, is probably the book I’ve read more than any other, giving it a very particular atmosphere in my mind.
Mark Fisher’s various projects exploring his surroundings as a resident of Felixstowe have had a similar effect in more recent years, with the Suffolk coastline also being a central location in the soon-to-be-released On Vanishing Land. Its influence can also be felt throughout his last book The Weird and the Eerie, with M.R. James’ ghost story “Oh Whistle and I’ll Come to You, My Lad” being central to book and audio-essay.
I also particularly remember Mark’s voice in OVL describing the sight of the shipping container port in Felixstowe as being like an encounter with the strange tripods from H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds. (Doesn’t Tom Cruise work in a shipping container port in the Steven Spielberg adaptation? Hadn’t thought about that before…)
All this and more is running around my head here today as I inadvertently recall all the memories of reading about the landscape I’m walking over and trying to think about where I should try to get to over the next two days in order to make the most of this unexpected visit.
So far all we’ve done is take a dusk walk around the local neighbourhood but this was already quite fruitful. There were plenty of eerie lamp posts illuminating very little…