There were those who questioned my sanity when I told them I was moving to a suburb of Lowestoft to live in a caravan. Especially those who knew me as a cocktail-sipping, red-shoe-wearing London-centric culture vulture. Well, I have news for them. I’ve survived a wet weekend in Suffolk and Norfolk – and it was a blast.
Firstly, people are super-friendly. Boat-builder Phil, aka the Gentleman Caller, has spent six months getting to know the locals in Oulton Broad, so we had a head start. Saturday began with a barbecue at the house of his former landlady, thrown in honour of another lodger’s birthday. The garden was full of blossom from the lovely apple and cherry trees, and soon also full of relaxed people knocking back the Pimms, chatting, and eating a great pile of burgers from the local butchers’ shop (no horsemeat here).
There were boat-builders, retired farmers, teachers, gardeners, dogs, children and a few escaped Londoners. There was no discussion about mortgage rates, careers, UKIP or the difficulty of getting ones children into a decent state school. We did learn that the nearest Waitrose is believed to be in Bury St Edmunds, some 50 miles away, and the closest motorway is apparently in Holland. Happily the weather played nicely until after we’d eaten (and the few drops of rain that did fall just brought out the stoic British spirit).
When we tore ourselves away, it was because we had tickets for a concert at Snape Maltings, the wonderful concert hall set on the reed-lined banks of the river Alde. This year marks the centenary of the birth of the concert hall’s founder, composer Benjamin Britten, and there are a host of Britten-related events taking place. We missed out on tickets for Britten’s Lowestoft-inspired opera Peter Grimes, but I was thrilled to book for Britten’s less-performed Canticles, a series of five short pieces, sung by tenor Ian Bostridge and counter-tenor Iestyn Davies. It was a magnificent evening, with dance and film enhancing the passionate, ethereal music. And in answer to one barbecue guest, no, canticles are not body parts.
Sunday was a slower day, although we enjoyed a swim first thing in Broadlands’ lovely bright swimming pool. A quick stroll to the Broad gave me prime viewing for a full-on yacht race, as half a dozen yachts tore up and down the lake, goose-winging before the breeze and jibing round buoys on a sixpence. Hair-raising stuff.
But the real fun came in the evening, when we headed over to Norwich for The Soul Rebels, performing as part of the Norwich and Norfolk Festival. Goodness only knows what these eight young black men from New Orleans thought when they looked down at the theatre full of seated, middle-aged, middle-class white folk. To give them full credit, they gave it their all. And N0rfolk loved them back. Three songs into their storming, funky, brass-driven set and we were getting up to get down in the aisles. By the end of the night, Norfolk was whooping, hands in the air, having the time of its life.
I honestly can’t imagine a more fun-packed, culturally-diverse weekend of entertainment. If this is typical for East Anglia, I’m not sure I’ll handle the pace. Another thing I’ve just noticed. We’ve been here more than a week, and we haven’t turned the TV on yet.