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Happy times, in two parts



Ben

P A R T   O N E

The blog was on a bank holiday last weekend. Did you notice?  It’s not that I’d stopped keeping my eyes open, but when Monday evening came I decided it would be nice, for once, to have a night where we just watched a film. We’d had a fun weekend down in Dorset with our friends Christopher and Arthur.  Which had involved absolutely nothing new at all under the sun, because we were visiting lots of old haunts.

So it was a good thing that on Saturday morning, early, when I was catching the train down to Dorset (having had a rare Friday evening in London at the Rugby Street 450th Birthday Party), that I got to Waterloo Station half an hour early, in gorgeous sunshine. I decided to go for a brief wander.

Unintentional pattern making…

The station facade is a grand piece of Edwardian Empire-building architecture, fine in its way. 

Sunlight glancing across the arches….

I walked across to the beautiful Greek Revival church that I had admired so many hundreds of times on my way to the station – but had never once had time to look at properly. 

The graveyard was full of suitably architectural monuments… 

And giant echiums.

The east front…

The portico.

I hadn’t known anything about the history of the Church until I looked it up.  Bombed heavily in the war, it was restored in 1950 and rededicated as the Festival of Britain Church.

The train sped down to Dorset; Charlie collected me, and we got home just in time for Christopher and Arthur to arrive. Fun times! After lunch we headed up to Somerset to three of our favourite gardens – Tintinhull, Lytes Cary, and Montacute.

The Camassias at Lytes Cary were breathtaking….

(Mavis, photobombing my picture of the dovecot, if you look carefully):

The camassia meadow in the orchard….

Then to Montacute, stately as always.

On Sunday, the rain swept in – we couldn’t, in one sense, have been happier. We went up to Mapperton, and shortly afterwards it was time for the boys to head on to their next destination (all the way to Derbyshire) and we settled into the quietest two days at the Parsonage. Then back to London for another manic week. Do you ever get the feeling, like me just at the moment, that you are running just to stay still?

P A R T   T W O

And so, on Friday, without quite pausing for breath, to Suffolk. We were staying with Charles and Rachel Morris – Charles, my old boss and mentor from so many years ago. On the Saturday we were meeting for an annual lunch, with all my old friends from the office, in memory of one of our colleagues, Gavin, who was snatched from us by cancer about three years ago – leaving his young family. It’s become a tradition and the nicest way to get together, in his memory, and think about the old days 20 years ago now when we all worked together.

But the day started early with a walk in the bluebell woods nearby…. looking their absolute best at this particular moment. 

Rachel and her grandson Otto…

There are, I think, few things more magical than an English bluebell wood in the first week of May, and I cast my mind back to similar trips past in Dorset, with Bridie.

Back in Blythburgh in the afternoon, we arrived to find Charlie and Mavis who had driven up from London that morning. Charles took Charlie on a tour of the garden. Mavis was rather wishing that someone would throw her a stick.

On Saturday evening we went down to Southwold for supper at the Harbour Inn, which is pretty much the perfect pub.  A sea cloud had rolled in over the town.

I adore the haphazard assembly of black fisherman’s huts down on the harbour front. 

Seagulls greedily eyed fish and chip eaters.

Local knowledge has it that Samantha K’s is the best place. 

And finally we were at the Harbour Inn, whose facade is marked by the 1953 Flood Line, which is something to give you pause for thought.  And we had a fine evening eating fish and drinking pints of Adnams Broadside, before walking back up to Southwold as night had fallen.

Today, Sunday lunch with the family – a walk beforehand….

Back up to beautiful, placid, lucid Blythburgh church, with its great roof of carved wooden angels….

And a quick pop in to brilliant Darsham nurseries and cafe (Charlie came away laden with special and interesting seeds), before a long and delicious and happy lunch, and a contented sleep in the sun afterwards, and an early evening drive back into London through the strange and restless edgelands of the A13.

All this feels a long way away already:

Tonight, an early night for us both as we are up at dawn to head to Dorset, where I am for work. Bonkers. I just have a feeling, it’s going to be another of those weeks.

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