We'd best wrap it up, eh? One entry left, and it'll have to cover three days.

On the second full day of Walberswick we went to Norwich. It was 45 minutes up by twisty roads and the local equivalent of the freeway, which is one lane in either direction with a median. This is a distinct improvement over the roads that are one lane in both directions, and consist mostly of curves with limited visibility. It seems as if every other pub should be called The Crumpled Bonnet. After we parked at the Mall - a nice mall, I should add, with two floors, clean and bright and cheerful - we began a tour of the downtown shopping district, which is pedestrian only. A main square with stalls that serve Mushy Peas; warrens of roads among 19th century buildings selling useful things, not tourist knick-knacks.


I bought a touristy knick-knack. A toothpick holder, of all things, in the shape of a Colman's Mustard container. (Norwich is the home of the substance, which for years provided the only discernible flavor in English food.)

A old church! In Europe, you say? An old, beautiful, empty church? Why yes.

Begun in 1096; finished in 1145.

Think about that.

This, I think, is from a different church, St. Stephen's.

  The floor is paved with grave markers. I was trained not to walk on graves, but I gather it's acceptable. It's not as if there are trapeze rings so you can swing to your pew.


After lunch we headed back, only to find the highway stuffed with traffic for a local festival. Astrid took a side road, and I do mean side road - the aforementioned one-lane capillary through the fields. I had the map on the phone, and we found our way through these narrow asphalt estuaries to somewhat larger roads. No phone service, but her device nevertheless updated our position, so I could navigate the quirks and turns until we got back to something wide and fast. Lots of fun, really - we don't have anything like back home.

Thank God.


Stopped at a castle. A big, ruined, serious castle. At this point, after this many days away and so many Things Seen and so many Charming Places, you start to reel and grasp a stanchion for balance. I can 't take any more impressive structures and charming cities! Just - just STOP! But there wasn't much left but the walls and the trenches, but ancient and amazing. But, 30 pounds for all of us, and we were thinking about a nap, so Sorry History.


A half pint at The Bell, then supper at the Anchor; Kiera Knightly popped in for a minute. (We hear she's staying up the street at the Freud's.) The proprietor is a great ale expert, and treated us to some fine libations; more chat and stories. So that was the penultimate day.

Side note: while we are gone, our neighborhood is being hit by a spate of burglaries. I'm in contact with our neighbors, but it's nerve-wracking to know we could come home to find the TV gone. On the other hand, I upped our burglary insurance before we left, and there's really nothing of value in the house. They take electronics and if they get your car keys, they take the cars.

They won't find the car keys. Those I buried well. The house is floodlit and the alarm signs are prominent, although apparently they're cutting the lines as well. Being there or not there doesn't seem to count; everyone who's been hit has been sleeping. I almost expect we'll get hit before we're home - just 48 hours and we're back, so fingers crossed.

To be honest, "going back" seems like a strange concept - we're completely cut off from the old life. All the old routines long forgotten, new rituals in place, simple thoughts of easy pleasures now greet the morn - and that's after two days in Walberswick. It's going to seem strange to get in the hired car on Saturday to pull out.

It's going to seem wrong to go. No better sign of a fantastic vacation than that.


We took the ferry across the river to Southold. If you don't get enough speed, you're swept out to the North Sea. It's a pound per head to get across, and the town's website says five generations have manned the boats. Or womanned. Apologies for the video, but there was much Dog.


We walked along the ferry path to the town, which was YET ANOTHER quaint little seaside town . . . Southwold.

You find yourself in places like this and look for a mirror, so you can stare at your reflection and say "why don't I live here? Seriously. What's my excuse?"

We took a tour of Adnam's, which is a remarkable brewery; I've been drinking nothing but Adnam's since we got here. It ended at the tasting room, of course, so you can pretend you're not drinking an entire beer because you're drinking many small ones, and then the big store where we got samples of their new spirits, including a three-wheat Whiskey in case you haven't had enough to drink this morning. Then you totter out into the sun and chalk up your unstable gait and ravenous hunger to "Vacation," or some such pallid justification.

Found a fish and chips place right next to a room where Orwell himself stayed a few seasons, then went down to the sea to sit on benches and eat our meal with the glorious Sea growling and thrashing down below. Observed the good folk galavanting in the sand and surf in the traditional English manner, which is to say some burned and some sat in the beach houses (80 thousand pounds, no water, no power) and had watercress sandwiches and patted their small dogs.





Went out on the pier, and at the absolute tip - the great yowling ocean chewing at the shore, eager to eat another mile; the gulls above; the kids with their ice cream; the old folks bent over tea - we came to the apogee, the zenith, the end of the trip.

Everything now was going back.

Later in the afternoon I wandered over to the ruined church in Walberswick, demolished in some doctrinal fracas. A smaller church was built inside the ruins. A sign asks you to mind the door, lest birds enter, and perish. Graves in perilous states - leaning, eroded, lichens blotting out the names and the dates. Everything was old; everything was worn with time, broken by time, humbled by time, but there was still something left. An empty marker still spoke to an occupant; a rectangular arrangement of stones still told you the length of the bones that slumbered below.



Last bit of Tourism. Last piece of nicking a bit of the local's lives to store in my digital archives. Last day, and for once I didn't want it to be the last. Could have been quite content to discover it was the first.

Paris was tired. London was dancing as if nothing was happening. In Walberwick there's wind, the taunting of the birds, and then the clouds come over and all is silent for a while -

Until a car rounds the bend; until a bicycle bell dings; until the workman in the building next door suddenly all laugh; until something reminds you that it all keeps going somehow. The sea will take this place some day, but it will have to work at it, and it won't feel proud when it wins. That was the easy part. The making of these lands, these towns, these streets and gardens - that's the work of humans, and that takes a special grace.

There might not always be an England. I wouldn't want to live on a globe that lacked such blessing.




EPILOGUE (Written today)

And that's it. The next day we got into a hired car - a bit more expensive than the train, but no chance of missing our plane.


Quiet driver in his 60s whose listened to classic rock at a decibel level of 2. Under normal circumstances I would have been jittery the whole time, worried about missing our plane, but it stopped boarding at 1, and we'd left Walberswick at 8 sharp. For two hours I just closed my eyes and woolgathered.

Traffic thickened around Heathrow, of course. The damned M25. But it was only 11, and no reason to think we'd be running for the gate later because everyone went shopping after having a bite to eat, although that's exactly what happened.


Two legs. England to Iceland, again. A layover to do some last-chance shopping. (Special Icelandic Licorice! Lava-filtered Vodka!) Back on the plane.


One of the pleasures of Icelandic Air is their in-flight entertainment system. I always have enough books and movies and music, but there's always something I've never heard on their Iceland Artists channel. In this case: a two-man electronica / ambient / chill / whatever group called Kiasmos, feeling that sense of peace you get when you're going home, and there's nothing more you could have done, and you miss everything you're leaving.

It took an hour and a half to get through customs, which was exhausting. It was about 2 AM by our lights when we arrived home at 8 PM, but the house hadn't been burgled. Scout had been dropped off, and was delirious to see us. I made coffee and pizzas. Everything was instantly back to normal.

Except that it wasn't, and it wouldn't be for quite a while. Right now it's almost two weeks since we left and it still seems as if I should get up in the morning and have coffee at Nero before heading out to London, or the sea, or the next village down the road.

Which road we'll take next, I don't know, but I'm tempted to say we should call it quits here. This voyage can't be topped.

Thanks for reading! Back to normal on Monday.


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