TO FELIXSTOWE, named after
Felix of Dunwich, not to be confused with the 67 other Felixes in
the martyrology. Wild weather. The polite seaside town where we
paddled as children is now a European base. Massive vehicles with
names in double Dutch crowd our little car. Their drivers look down
on us haughtily. To think that our Felix Christianised us from
these sandlings! Was it our shortcomings that brought them from
The October trees burn,
fired up by autumn. We lunch on fish pie. The North Sea is neatly
ruled from the firmament, and balances a little boat on the
horizon. Yachts are laid up for the winter. The stony beach
rattles. All is as it was - airy, harsh, bright.
Felixstowe brings to mind
that touching poem "The Last of Her Order", in which John Betjeman
observes a devout old Sister making her way to holy communion.
Seaside towns are studded with places of worship - some barely
breathing, like that in the poem. Young clergy try to rouse them
from their slumbers with clapped hands, startling the retired, some
of whom would give their souls for a bit of Merbecke.
Grand hotels have been
turned into flats. But tennis thrives. I can hear my cousin
Winifred playing for Suffolk. The turbulent October air hurls us
along with promises that we shall live for ever. In Felixstowe, of
It is Beowulf land:
a stretch of Scandinavia discovered in East Anglia - dreadful
people, really, all mead and bloody swords. I hope they paused now
and then to see the leaves turning. Their deeds come to us in the
finest Old English. And just after breakfast.
Seabirds wheel around. It is
supposed to rain, but a fierce sun cuts the sky into gold bars.
Golfers have turned up in their hundreds, according to the cars
outside the clubhouse. Play is now a large part of existence for
many people - playing, and watching.
And the Felixstowe lady in
the poem kept prayer going. I heard that the churchwardens in a
seaside church were now dubbed "greeters" One of the most tender
welcomes I ever received from a little congregation was when old
hands brushed the rain from my coat as I entered a Welsh church. It
was pouring and quite a walk from the car, the bell speaking its
final notes, and I was drenched. My companion, too. There we were,
being received, touched. And the lovely, unknown-to-us hymn. And
the clatter of the storm on the roof. Everything the same, yet
It is a great year for
orchards. For falls. Although mind your heads when it comes to my
Warden pear. This is a baking pear, said to have been prized by the
Cistercian monks of Wardon, Bedfordshire. The artist John Nash
planted it at Bottengoms. Henry IV ate it at his wedding, when it
would have been served with venison, quail, and sturgeon.
There is no hope of picking
it from my tree, which stretches to heaven. Too hard to bruise, it
falls into the dying grass. Warden pies were all the rage.
Canon sigh'd - but, rousing, cried, "I answer to thy call,
And a Warden-pie's a dainty dish to mortify withal!
I stew it gently in its rough skin with cloves and sugar. It is
a most distinguished fruit, which a sudden gale is bringing down. A
15th-century recipe says cook it with fish - with anything you
like. You will need a strong knife and a strong wrist.