…there undoubtedly is something unnerving about East Anglia. Whether it's those huge skies, that almost aggressively flat landscape — or the sheer, slightly agoraphobic sense that the world could at any moment tilt and swallow you up — it's a place that makes the heart race, the blood quicken. It's a landscape that makes you tread cautiously, glance behind you, check your tracks.
— Julie Myserson in the foreword to Line Dancing: Stories from East Anglia
Suffolk is a strange place.
In part, I love it. That "two decades behind the rest of the world" feel, the friendliness of the staff in the market town shops and the beautiful rural countryside. I spend quite a lot of time there right now, because it's where my mother lives. I look forward to my visits there, and quietly dread my return to the thronging metropolis at the end of my stays.
Even in the height of summer, when the sun beats down on the fields of the county, and the village fêtes and church fairs are well under way, there's something autumnal about the place, an edge of melancholy that infuses even the most pleasant afternoon. It's as if there's something in the very soil there infects the area with a sense of the impermanence of life.
Suffolk lacks the great, imposing hills of other parts of the UK, and supplants them with wide, open horizons and flat vistas. This takes from it the grandiose beauty of the sweeping views, and replaces it with the small beauty of copses of trees, or a hedgerow, or a well-formed cottage. And because of that, it lacks features that tell us that things will outlast us, of great mounds of rock that create the illusion of permanence in the face of inevitable entropy. Impermanence, transition, they cycle of seasons and, yes, death, are always in the air there, and they seep into everything that occurs.
When I walk the streets of Halesworth, shopping and chatting and laughing, it seems like an ideal place to settle. But on the long, and often bleak, road between the town and Bramfield, I find myself unable to even countenance the idea. It takes a bravery in the face of mortality to settle there, a bravery that I sorely lack.