The marigolds were blooming in Southwold. Half a dozen friends had gone to the coast for a weekend break and four of us were staying in the aptly named Marigold Cottage where the bright orange flowers had bid us a cheery welcome the day before.
This morning we had decided to walk along the shoreline, cross over the river Blyth and have a leisurely lunch at a pub/restaurant in Walberswick, the next village a few miles to the south. It was a pleasant summer day – sunny, warm and with fluffy white clouds in the sky, but with a cool on-shore breeze. A few showers were forecast for the afternoon but most of us went without a coat trusting in lady luck. If we got miserably wet at least we’d be able to joke about it afterwards over a pint in a pub or a steaming mug of tea back at the cottage.
We met up on the dunes. The sea was a blueish grey in the morning sun, which is as pretty a dress as the dour North Sea has ever been known to wear. Waves lapped gently on the beach and one or two dark shapes on the horizon spoke of fishing boats, ferries, oil tankers and pleasure boats shuffling along the shipping lanes between England and the continent. After the obligatory preliminaries – “Good morning”, “Nice weather”, “Did you sleep well?” – our party began to pick its way along the beach, up onto the dunes, past the beach huts and onto a raised sandy path. From here we could look back to the town of Southwold with its distinctive lighthouse and forward to tall grass and open fields.
For a mile or two there was not much to see. Flat fields of scrub to the right, a flatter sea to the left and the footpath meandering ahead. An artist might have taken inspiration from the scene but our little band of walkers soon lost interest. A man walking his dog enlivened the flagging conversation briefly and then we all fell into our own private thoughts, ambling along the narrow path like a column of ants prospecting for something sweet. Sometimes the sun would go behind a cloud and in this exposed place the wind, though gentle, felt a little chilly. Then the cloud would move away, the sun’s rays would warm our faces and a feeling of quiet contentment would descend upon us again.
The path began to bend, taking us inland, away from the sea and alongside the wide mouth of the river. In the distance we could just make out Walberswick, our destination, on the far riverbank. There were fewer clouds now, the sun was high and it was getting quite warm. It wasn’t long before Walberswick church steeple and the rest of the village came clearly into view. We could see tables in the garden of a pub tantalisingly close by, but separated from us by the deep water of the river Blyth. We would have to walk another mile or so to the bridge, cross over and walk back down into the village before we could slake our thirst and quench our growing hunger.
Just then a few notes of music drifted in the wind. At first the sound was indistinct and seemed to come from far away but then either the wind shifted or somebody turned up the volume. I recognised the tune immediately; it was Everybody Wants to Rule the World by Tears for Fears and it was (for me, at least) the anthem of the summer. You heard it everywhere you went. Every pop radio station in the country had been playing it. I paused there by the river to listen to it again and, suddenly, our little ramble was lifted from the mundane to the unforgettable.
I think we can safely file Tears for Fears early material under ‘New Wave’ although EWtRtW would fit comfortably in mainstream pop and rock collections, too. Bass and drums give it a beat guaranteed to get a pop festival crowd swaying like ripe heads of wheat in a cornfield. Synthesisers wash lazily on a shingle beach; rhythmic guitar chords pound like surf on the rocks. And over this murmuring sea of sound a voice serenades us with a simple tune – inviting us, urging us, compelling us all to sing along. The singers words are obtuse but no-one cares. The song is one of the sweetest earworms known to man.
After pausing there by the river I quickened my steps. The others were already pressing on, eager for refreshments, and I joined them in buoyant mood. My memory of the rest of that day has faded but it was a good day.
On that first visit to Southwold back in 1985 I was unattached but I went back in 2007 with Mrs. Crotchety to celebrate paying off the mortgage. We went to Southwold partly because I had fond memories of the town and partly because the Flying Egg festival, with its theme of alternative umbrellas, sounded fun. Sadly, the Flying Egg festival hasn’t been held since but there has been a family-friendly music and arts festival near Southwold every year since 2006. It’s called the Latitude festival and among the artists scheduled for July 2016 are: Maccabees, John Grant, Half Moon Run and Cloves, all of which have featured in the Crotchety Man blog.
I’m tempted to get tickets for Latitude. If I go it will be my first music festival for over 40 years and my third visit to the small Suffolk town of Southwold. Marigold Cottage seems to be available so the omens are good. But, I don’t know. I’m too old to stay up late and too Crotchety to put up with pesky little kids. Perhaps I’ll just let the Internet be my eyes and ears. As usual.