Sat navs do not like Felixstowe. It has taken us three attempts to get here.
The first attempt, tried some months ago, was done by sight alone as we made a slight detour to Felixstowe on our way back to London. After driving around back streets and turning down too many roads we were evidently not meant to go down, we gave up and said “next time.”
This time, putting the official “viewing point” into Google Maps, we were still taken directly into the Port of Felixstowe. Messaging a friend who works on ships and has spent a lot of time there, we were informed that we were indeed lost — not that we needed that confirming — circling around “Berths 8 & 9”.
He told us that, in fact, we shouldn’t have been able to get that far without a security check. Nevertheless, we found all the lorry drivers very courteous as we fumbled our way around stacks of shipping containers and disintegrating office blocks…
We eventually made our way to the appropriate viewing spot, looking out over that major “nerve ganglion of capital” as Mark Fisher and Justin Barton refer to the Port in On Vanishing Land. It was strange being quite so close and yet so far away from it. Standing on the stunted beach, it felt more like a shoreline of undeveloped land rather than beach by the sea. It was like spatial polarities had been reversed.
From this strange vantage point, the Port’s main offloading point was a literal stone’s throw away, and yet nothing looked to scale. It’s difficult to wrap your head around — the sheer size of the operation perpetually unfolding and the labour hours and wealth of commodities being moved back and forth through this city and around the world and the rest of the country.
As if to drive all this home with a healthy dose of eerie, I picked up a flyer as we left the viewing point cafe — they did a good mushroom soup — that was advertising a children’s Hallowe’en event at Landguard Fort, right next to the Port viewing point.
I was half-convinced the event it was advertising was real. Before finding the ad we had just been discussing the eerie nature of these huge and anonymous containers. What is inside them? Do they ever get lost? The flyer read:
A strange artefact known as the Mask of the Dead that was unearthed at the G’harne excavation site in Africa — and then mysteriously stolen — has been found in a container at the Port during a customs check. As a security measure the artefact has temporarily been moved to Landguard Fort for safekeeping before been taken to the British Museum in London.
The mask was reputed to have legendary powers. The wearer could raise an army of the dead, and his enemies would grow weak and die just looking at it. The mask disappeared centuries ago until its recent discovery.
Due to the interest it has generated, for one night only, you are invited to attend a special Open Evening at Landguard Fort on Saturday 26 October — where the mask will be revealed and an expert archaeologist will be present to answer questions.
I thought, in my cultured ways, that the G’harne excavation actually sounded familiar. It turned out this was not my latent knowledge of the African continent, however, but an echo from the Cthulhu mythos.
How wonderfully appropriate to finish our Suffolk trip here, with capitalist and Cthulhic tendrils entangling with one another before the drive back to London.
We’ll be coming back later for another weekend away in a few weeks. Immediately the return to London has brought back the constant anxious hum and chest-tightness that defines every day in this city. We’re so grateful to have friends that will allow us to escape and visit whenever we like. They are a lifeline.
I need to get out of London permanently soon, I think. I’d rather face Cthulhic horrors and natural emptiness than the perpetual buzz of this city for much longer. I’m at a risk of starting to sound like Lovecraft himself, although it’s the landlords and bad drivers that I hate, not some racialised cult of subalterns…