We’re green on The Green it would seem. The second May Bank Holiday brought children and grandchildren Staycationing briefly; how lovely it was and with perfect sunny weather bringing relief from the tedium of lockdown.
Frances Macmillan has been our postmistress for thirty years. Now she has closed her little shop with its huge selection of sweets in jars along the shelves behind the counter, the bread, the newspapers and milk so handily available for those emergencies, not to mention other vital victuals, to retire and leave us. Only the red pillar box will remain as a reminder of our sub-post office, though for how long we know not.
And into our Tea-on-the-Green to celebrate our new freedoms, to thank Frances and revel in the weather, who should appear among us on her 20,000 mile walk around the British Isles but Karen Penny, on her way up the Stour from Harwich to Manningtree. Incredible journey raising awareness and money for Alzheimer’s Research; £85,000 of the £100,000 goal reached and still the whole east coast to go to get back to John O’Groats. It fair made our heads spin. If anyone would care to donate click on the link :
I’ve called this entry Red, Amber or Green? because the 21st of June, midsummer, is the date for the masks to be whisked off and normality resumed – it is presumed. Lingering doubts round the Delta variant may change the traffic lights and we are holding our collective breath while Bojo and The Clowns juggle their political acts and the scientists urge caution.
In the meantime its full speed ahead on duet- quartet- and sestet-dinners at home and abroad in Thorpness, Wivenhoe, Brondesbury Park, Thurston – not forgetting Snape for a picnic, a walk, and some Scriabin, Britten and Schoenberg, John Wilson conducting The Royal Academy of Music Strings; and in “Orlando’s Garden”, Brightlingsea, where rain stopped play and we were moved to All Saints Church and Orlando Jopling’s talented String Quartet and Singers took us through Puccini, Tchaikovsky, Mozart, Purcell and even a twiddle or two of Porter & Hammerstein!
Friend and neighbour Sarah – glimpsed here at tea – has donated a fantastic booklet from her rapidly dwindling library (as she prepares to leave us and move north – so sad), Geoff Gostling’s Shotley Peninsula Walks. I have a ‘thing’ about doubling back or backtracking on walks or hikes. Circles or loops are my walking ideal and this booklet is fantastic as it highlights all the circular walks near us, across the Stour in Suffolk on the Shotley Peninsula. So there’s lots there to investigate in our rapidly warming summer.
The Shotley Peninsula is beautiful. It’s the thin strip of land separating the Orwell & Stour Rivers with Manningtree at the head of the Stour and Ipswich at the top of the Orwell – the rivers meet at Harwich and Felixstowe.
Low-lying and high-ceilinged, there is much history here. It is reputed that Anne Boleyn’s heart is buried at St. Mary’s Ewarton near Shotley.
The landscape is a darkening green, the Bluebells and May have made way for the Poppies, Buttercups, the smell of mowing, barley and wheat, rapeseed and grasses
At St. Mary’s Shotley, if you tiptoe respectfully through the cemetery, down the steep slope you come upon thirteen German graves, including ein unbekannter Deutscher Soldat. They are the graves of some of the earliest casualties of the Great War of 1914-18, of 13 sailors of the Kaiserliche Marine.
The tragic events unfolded on August 5th 1914, the day after the outbreak of War. HMS Amphion was off Harwich when a German minelayer was spotted. The Royal Navy ship gave chase and sank the minelayer, but took on board 46 survivors. However, in the early hours of August 6th HMS Amphion itself hit one of the mines with the loss of at least 131 personnel. Other ships took off survivors but the hapless Amphion then struck another mine and sank. Some of the burials are here at Shotley.
Across the river in Harwich on another day, we walked family Julie, Zac and Fin through the old town where Henry VIII started the navy in 1543, where the Mayflower was built and launched and captained via Plymouth to America by Christopher Jones whose house still stands opposite our favourite pub, The Alma, in King Street; they’d asked to see it and we walked the pier, through the wilderness where the Redoubt and Beacon Hill Batteries, built in 1657 as reinforcement against the Dutch and French, are overgrown by brambles, cow parsley and wild flowers, the stark, broken concrete of later reinforcements facing out onto the brown North Sea, stubbing our toes.
We found this plaque not realising that the Kindertransport first landed here; thousands of innocent, Jewish children escaping the horrors of Hitler’s Europe, before travelling on toward Liverpool Street Station and unknown futures without their mothers, their fathers, their Aunts and Uncles, Grandparents and tortured elders.
Let’s Never Forget. Such a lot of History here.
THE BUNGEE JUMPERS – A SILLY RED HERRING, FRIENDS :
I don’t know why this story has suddenly popped into my mind. It comes out of nowhere and is entirely irrelevant to traffic lights, lockdowns or clowning prime ministers but ten years ago I went to New Zealand to visit my brother and say hello to my oldest friend in the world, Helena. She and I grew up in Pinelands, Cape Town where we were next-door-neighbours. At two I was playing in her sandpit together with her brother Janek and we have been friends ever since.
Helena lives in Masterton and when I stayed with her, she took me away for the weekend to her retreat at Oreti Village in Pukawa on Lake Taupo.
On one of the days we drove round to Taupo town and among other things visited the Spa Thermal Park where there is the famous Bungee Jumping Platform started by A.J. Hackett as the first commercial venture of its kind in the world.
The landscape round about is beautiful. The views from the platform high above the Waikato River just below the Haku Falls are breath-taking.
Into this chasm people pay good money to jump with an elastic band tied around their ankles.
“Do you want to have a go?” Helena said, sipping some coffee.
“Are you crazy? Never in a month of Sundays would I do that,” I replied, peering into the depths.
The place was deserted. Just two German tourists, a young couple, obviously recently married, gazing in trepidation at the gushing river below. A young New Zealander was supervising the jump.
She was already strapped up and ready to go but was having serious second thoughts.
“You don’t have to do it if you don’t want to. Take as much time to decide as you like,” said the New Zealander, “no one is forcing you and no one would ever push you!”
“Komm schon Hannah,” the young husband, lets call him Karl, started to coax her, “es its sicher. Haben Sie keine Angst. Alles, was Sie tun müssen, ist aussteigen.”
“Karl! Stress mich nicht. Kann ich das Geld nicht zurückbekommen?” Stop pressuring me, can’t I get the money back etc etc, she wailed, our Hannah!
“Schau Schatz, ich geh dir gleich hinterher und dann haben wir es geschafft! Komm schon, wir können nicht den ganzen Tag dauern!” He’ll follow her, he promises, and they can’t waste time etc etc, he wheedled, our Karl.
“Du versprichst mir?” You promise?
Helena and I were riveted. Would she jump? It was like watching a thriller, never sure of the outcome. Might he even push her? No, we thought, the New Zealander would never allow that.
Suddenly she jumped.
There were two types of jump: one where the elasticated cord was adjusted to allow the jumper a ducking in the water before spronging up and down dripping wet or another measured to extend just short of the water then spronging dryly up and down.
Hannah had elected the dry jump. She gradually slowed down and was then gently lowered into the arms of two boatmen who uncoupled her , set her upright and rowed her to the shore where a Landrover was waiting to drive her round the hill back to the top to witness Karl’s efforts.
The elasticated rope was being wound up and the supervisor turned to Karl, “Do you want to get ready then?” he asked.
“Nein, I vill…vait fur mein friend…..”
“He’s scared. He’s not going to do it, is he?” said Helena.
The Landy appeared round the corner and an elated Hannah ran onto the platform, “Es is fantastisch! Ich hatte noch nie in meinem Leben solche Angst, aber jetzt habe ich es geschafft!”
Such elation from our Hannah, such a sense of achievement, “Warum sind Sie noch nicht bereit, an der Reihe zu sein?” Why are you not getting ready?
“Nein. Ich will es nicht und ich habe jetzt keine Zeit. Ich denke, wir sollten gehen.” Our Karl bottled out and Hannah was livid, betrayed. The little drama unfolded before us while we sipped our coffee.
“Aber du hast es versprochen. Du hast gesagt, wenn ich springe, würdest du springen. Wie erbärmlich du bist, was für ein Feigling!”
You promised. You are a coward. Why did you put me through this?
A full-scale domestic row blew up.
We finished our coffee and left the Bungee Jumpers to their broken vows.
That was ten years ago.