Friday, 29 April 2011


This is the big day, isn't it? I guess if you have to wonder about that, you are not of The National Mood.

I am certainly not. And I am so strong armed about it that no-one else near me is allowed to be of The National Mood either.

But I have a sense of resignation. Faced with the street party, the shindig on the village green and the bunting, I accept I am in a minority. I quietly resolve, when the day is over, I will return home. Until then, I will escape somewhere out of it. Somewhere unassailable. Landguard Fort would be good.

I pile the children into the car and lecture them on the arguments for a republic. As a bonus feature on the A416 approaching Lowestoft, I outline in painful and prolonged detail how all kings and queens after Charles II are mostly boring. I caution my nodding audience that he is only interesting because he was the first of a new breed and therefore had to make up a role for superfluous monarch.

Unfortunately, as I park the car in the pay and display, I then pathetically recall how I suffer from that memory thing. Yes indeed, I made a lamentable error on the Bury St Edmunds roundabout. As everyone knows, Landguard Fort is not at Lowestoft.

To save face, I told the children they moved it.

But Lowestoft-by-accident is brilliant, isn't it? It looks like, once upon a time, it was the genteel, elderly face of Edwardian seaside worship, but now it is mostly genteel and elderly. I loved it for that. I loved the way the way it stayed out of step, all along the promenade. Pragmatic in the twenty-first century, the council puts the wheelie bins next to the statue of Triton; then you can enjoy the pier which looks like somewhere to put the leftover containers; or hire the beach huts which look obsessively well cared for, considering they are basically sheds. I even enjoyed my expectation of the sand dunes and how the excitement stayed until we reached them. Judging by the tyre tracks I suspect they are mowed.

But I loved the way the people behaved too. The other Cromwellians huddled inside their windbreaks clutching their thermos flasks, the kids played a hopeless game of cricket sunk in the sand, and the ice cream seller wordlessly passed me a dishcloth to wipe down my sleeve after I stuck my elbow into Shark's ice cream. Then the tourist staff ignored me, the man policing the loos let me and Squirrel wee for free after I whined about the ten pence, and the terrible chips were served with a brutal honesty by the traditional chip seller and his selection of tattoos.

So I loved it all. The ordinary Englishness, the cliffside landscape, a sea the colour of flint, and the way it is so very different from its close, on-the-coast sisters, Great Yarmouth and Felixstowe.

If only they would give Landguard Fort back, the place would be perfect.