Outside the National Gallery, a street performer:


His bit was getting up on a very tall unicycle and juggling. But since that takes about 45 seconds, he had an elaborate comic routine that involved audience members helping him get up, with the pretense that he wasn’t very good at this and required their assistance. It was a bit . . . needy, and I suppose that might work, but that sort of self-deprecation is difficult to pull off. Too much, and you’re pathetic; too little, and it’s not convincing.

As it happened, he really killed the bit with excessive begging at the end. He seemed to be implying that a pound was the least we could do, a fiver was great, a tenner fantastic but really a fiver was the sweet spot and he could get a nice meal and pay his rent, and if you enjoyed this show it would be really nice if you gave him a fiver and also he did this for free really and you all have been standing here enjoying this, so it’s your responsibility, really when you think about it. You could feel the audience's patience seep out and form a grey cloud overhead, but maybe that was just the usual London weather.

At the end his dismount consisted of falling into the side of the National Museum and clinging to the balustrade while someone from the audience grabbed his bike, and he looked like a small hapless primate who’d slipped off a balcony and was waiting for rescue. I gave him a pound.

Back to the hotel to sleep for three hours, then up and walking around and enjoying the streetlife. A meal, a boba, an Americano, watching the pedestrian parade. A pint at Scoff and Bother, and sleep, hoping not to wake until it was meet and right so to do.

Up at 7:30 AM: mission accomplished. We had synced with England.

The next leg of the trip involved getting up to Walberswick, which isn't hard. I mean, they have trains that go everwhere and leave on the hour. Ubered over, a twisty journey I couldn't possibly retrace, through clotted streets that nevertheless moved with more fluidity that most great cities that lack sufficient thoroughfares.

The journey always makes me think I have seen nothing of London. Nothing at all. There's so much, spreading in all directions, marvelously old and human-scaled, next to briht new proud structures arising cheek-to-jowl with imperial remnants.



We passed a repurposed trough:

There are quite a few, actually. If they all look alike, there's a reason:

The Metropolitan Drinking Fountain and Cattle Trough Association was an association set up in London by Samuel Gurney, a Member of Parliament, and philanthropist and Edward Thomas Wakefield, a barrister, in 1859 to provide free drinking water. 

Originally called the Metropolitan Free Drinking Fountain Association it changed its name to include cattle troughs in 1867, to also support animal welfare.

It's not only still around, it has a website.

We entered Liverpool Street Station at the back, which was confusing, but I knew where the ticket queue would be, and bought the tickets. I've got it now: Norwich train to Lowenscraven or Woolenstonecroft or something, changing trains at Dipswitch or Ipswitch. Asked if it left at 11:00.

“I did,” said the clark, “but now it leaves at 11:02.”

An important distinction.

We had a cup of coffee at the dark, sticky Costa, bought some items at the M+S as usual, then boarded as soon as the gate was announced. Pulled out and rode northeast.

The Ipswitch Switch requires leaving the train, taking an elevated staircase over the tracks, and getting into another train bound for elsewhere. The first time we made the Ipswitch Switch I lashed the family along at break-neck speed - let’s go! The train will surely depart in seconds without us! - but this time I was more relaxed: eh, it’ll be there. And it was: one electric car, no engine, a smallish and warm thing that could not be confused with a recently produced model. It chugs along at a speed you could match on foot; a cheerful lady of senior age takes your tickets and calls you dear.

Sat across from a man who quietly fumed about the ridiculous train, having no space for his bag or any monitor to indicate which stop was next; he too was going to Walbers, and was a bit surprised to learn we were getting off at Darsham. He wasn’t.

Well, that’s where our friend is meeting us, I explained, but it didn’t seem to help. I can understand why - I’d be confused, too. So the train doesn’t go to Walbers?

Not anymore. Not for a very long time.

Astrid met us at the station, and hurrah we were here. Drove into Walbers with that happy emotion you get when you're going to a place you love, and haven't visited in a while. Stowed our bags in her new guest house, which was quite marvelous and set out for a walk in the countryside along the ancient paths.


If you like . . . you can stroll along on your own, right here.

Then ales at the Anchor! I was hailed by the barkeep as The American, which made the day complete. Back in Walbers.

Back at the Black Dog or Mucky Pup deli, where there was a dog of an inconsistent hue.

And then, at long last, to the Anchor for a Ghost Ship, as fresh an ale as you'll find on the isle. The barkeep greeted me: "It's the American," he said.

I know it's all their pub, and not mine, because I am, well, the American. But it still felt like home.

Little did I know I was about to suffer one of the European traveller’s nightmares.