The last leg.

The final portion of the trip had more moving parts than I'd have liked, starting with the problem of getting to the place from which you depart. Lugging the luggage down the Tube escalators and into the crowded cars seemed unwise. A taxi, we were told, might do the trip in 30 minutes, but of course the meter's running. That left UBER, which would be cheaper, and probably more interesting.

Saw a ghost sign on the way:


The driver was amused by my interest in the sign, as though I'd just revealed some aspect of my personality any ordinary person would regard as daft. Well, that made two of us. The driver, if you want to go with the nearest stereotype, was your Classic English Eccentric, the fellow who's devoted to a particular idea or theory and has clamped his jaws around the idea and locked them in place. After the usual exchange of where-you-bound and where-are-you-from, he said he'd been in the states for a science conference. What sort? I asked. He paused.

"Do you know science?" he said.

"A bit," I said.

"It was a conference about the Electrical Universe." And he went on to explain what that meant. Everything the scientists say about the universe is wrong. It's not gravity that's important. It's electricity. At the start it was interesting to consider, and every question I had about cosmology was answered in a trice with confidence and certainty, because they have it all settled. Eventually, though, you hit the point where you realize oh dear, this is barking mad. I think that was when he explained that plate tectonics did not exist, that was all wrong, the fissures were actually the result of the earth expanding. If you collapsed the earth all the continents fit together, you see, and when the Earth was struck by enormous thunderbolts of celestial origin, it expanded. Apparently we used to orbit Saturn, too.

He sounded sane; he was sane. He just believed in this alternate theory, and he's hardly alone.

We were deposited at Liverpool Street station, and went down into a vast hall. An enormous board with all the departures; quite confusing. Went straight to TICKETS, got our three, and then I waited by the gate while wife and child wandered off to wander off. Was convinced this was the wrong train, even though all the signs said it was the right one - what did they know? I could be making a horrible mistake! Was convinced this was the wrong train, even though all the signs said it was the right one - what did they know? I could be making a horrible mistake! Go check the board, again! Then get back on the train.


After a nice hour chugging through the countryside we switched at Ipswich, and this was the danger point. We had a few minutes to get off, take a lift up to the footbridge, cross over, and board the train that was already at the platform. Of course my instinct is to RUN because there's no point in sauntering, only to see it lurch away the moment you clap eyes on it. We made it with seconds or hours to spare, depending on whether you ask me or Daughter.

Another 40 minutes, and we were in Darsham, met by -

. . . well, back up. Remember a few years ago, when I picked up the phone and called Peg Lynch, the Forgotten Radio and TV star? And she invited me to come to her house in Massachusetts? And I did, and her daughter Astrid was there? And how we became friends, and how the next year after Peg died, Astrid came to Minnesota and we drove down to the small town to bury her mother's remains? Astrid said you must come visit if you're ever in England, and I said I would, and I meant it, and now a few years later after the phone call that set it all in motion, there's Peg Lynch's daughter and her husband Denis on the platform, waving an scarf imprinted with British and American flags.

Welcome to the seaside haven of . . .


That's where I am at the moment - in the kitchen of the home of two BBC comedy writers who are on vacation and graciously allowed us the use of their home. The North Sea is down the street. It's . . . perfect.

About our hosts, who will read this and blush but it's TRUE: simply wonderful people, and boundlessly talented.


Astrid is a delightful writer who's working on three books and a musical. Denis recently released "Key Changes," a lively and hilarious account of his life in English music, starting from his days in a massively popular boy band, going through his career as a TV and stage composer, big band leader. They have . . . stories. I mean, you can't write and produce a song album for Albert Finney and do a Motown-sponsored American tour that puts you on the Tonight Show without stories. But that's what his book is for.

So here's more of the little town. At end of our lane, there's an old church:

Dedicated to St. Dowt, patron saint of weary suspicion:

In the evening we went down to the pub, of course. The Anchor.


Mabel the dog came with and sat on a cushion.


  Then it was back to Astrid's for dinner, long into the night; wonderful stories. Listened to this from Denis' period of Nordic fame.


So that was our first night in Suffolk. After a good night's sleep we rose in our charming digs, had coffee, then went down the road to the Black Dog, or the Mucky Pup*, for breakfast.

Astrid collected us around noon and we investigated the area - a series of small picturesque towns, including some ancient seaside resorts for the tony set.



Tiny roads, wide enough for one car. With two-way traffic. Visited Dunwich, once a huge port in medieval times, now a fragment of a town set on top of the enormous cliffs. The bluffs collapsed over the years, and the sea simply took the town. A friary nearby had the sort of ruins that made me want to start a heavy-metal band so I could feature them on the album cover.

We visited the cliff - it's quite a long way down, despite what you might think - and looked at the Last Grave. All that remains of a church and boneyard lost to the sea in 1922. The Greyfriars priory ruins are nearby; they, too, are eventually doomed.




To get a sense of the time frame around these parts: "The original site, which had 20 friars in 1277 when it first appears in records, was threatened by coastal erosion and the friary was moved inland in 1289." The destruction occured when the monasteries were dissolved by royal order.

Not a good time for religious liberty.

Paused for a bite at Maunderwich or Ipslington or something; the cafe was also an antique store of sorts, and for the price of a mere pound I got two 1970 comic books for easily-amused children; they looked at me and YES THIS IS A WEBSITE, so there you go. Sparky Magazine, coming in 2017! Then groceries at a Waitrose, which is proof of British superiority over France in all respects. Not only was it a grocery store I'd be proud to have in my neighborhood, it was better than the one I have, and the in-house graphics were just brilliant. As they say. That's the other thing I've noticed about GB: the quality of graphics in everyday products and signage is much better than Paris, and yes, these things matter. Graphics are like fashion and hairstyles and music - they set the tone, the tempo, the feeling of modernity. Paris signage and products look like they were made from the default set of fonts that came with a computer in 2006.

So that was our day in Suffolk. Tomorrow: off to the ancestral home . . . of Alan Patridge.


*No one calls it the Mucky Pup. It's an obscure reference to an obscure book, Burgess' "The Right to an Answer." There's a pub called the Black Swan, and every reference says "The Black Swan, or Mucky Duck." So I made the Black Dog the Mucky Pup, to the confusion and eventual annoyance of all.

One more thing:




Yes, that's the Captain of the Titanic at the end, sitting in Walberswick. It would seem he swam home.



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